Coastal Carolina feeling bullish heading into CWS finals against Arizona
“My assistant, Matt Schilling, for the whole year, every single time when we go on the road, on the bus, he plops in 'Bull Durham,'" CCU head coach Gary Gilmore said Sunday at his news conference. "So every great baseball cliche, every great one-liner you can think of is in that movie.
"If we've watched it once, we've watched it 25 times. And it's incredible. Every time we watch it, we win.”
Then CCU has watched it at least 53 times this season.
That's how many wins the Chanticleers have heading into the best-of-three CWS championship series against Arizona. Game time Monday is 7 p.m. ET at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET with Game 3, if necessary, Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.
The Chanticleers lead the nation in victories and also home runs with 95. So it's no surprise to Arizona head coach Jay Johnson that the Chanticleers have come this far.
"Looking at Coach Gilmore and Coastal, this is a long time coming," Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said during his news conference Sunday. "This is not a surprise to me.
"Knowing what that program has stood for a long period of time, the way they're coached, the amount of good players that they've had ... I'm very proud to say when I look at their team I see a lot of characteristics in our team. I think it's gonna be a great series."
The Chanticleers, the first team to reach the CWS finals in their first appearance since Georgia Tech in 1994, are trying to become the first to win in their debut since Minnesota in 1956.
While this has been a breakout season for the Chanticleers, their first CWS appearance has been a long time coming indeed. Gilmore's Chanticleers have made 12 NCAA Regional appearances and reached the Super Regionals in 2008 and 2010 before winning this year.
They hosted the 2010 Super Regional after winning a school-record 55 games. That team featured future major-leaguers Tommy La Stella (Chicago Cubs) and Taylor Motter (Tampa Bay Rays) and lost to South Carolina, starring Jackie Bradley Jr. now of the Boston Red Sox.
But they didn't back down. South Carolina's two wins both were decided by one run — 4-3 and 10-9.
South Carolina went on to win the first of two consecutive CWS championships.
Now the Chanticleers will get their chance. And if the Chanticleers finish with 55 wins this year they will win the school's first national championship.
"None of this has hit me yet," Gilmore after CCU beat TCU 7-5 Saturday night to reach the finals. "It's kind of like I'm in a dream. I'm afraid to pinch myself. It's one of the most incredible things I can imagine, I don't know if I ever dreamt about getting this far."
CCU (53-17) won three consecutive games facing elimination, including a 4-1 victory Friday against TCU. Andrew Beckwith, who Sunday was named the Gregg Olson Award winner for Breakout Player of the Year, threw 137 pitches in his second complete-game victory in five days. In CCU's CWS opener last Sunday, he faced down No. 1 Florida, 2-1.
After losing 6-1 to TCU, CCU beat No. 5 Texas Tech 7-5 on Thursday and TCU back-to-back on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, CCU had only four hits. On Saturday, they pounded out 12 hits, including a home run, three doubles and a triple.
The Chanticleers also turned three double plays on Saturday, including one to end the game after TCU cut in the lead to 7-5.
"They amaze everyday I go out there," Gilmore said. "Every single day they find ways to win. Can't be happier for a group of young men."
• CCU’s College World Series Central
Above: Coastal Carolina celebrates a 7-5 victory Saturday against TCU and advancing to the College World Series final. (Courtesy of @NCAACWS on Twitter)