OMAHA, Neb. – It was a sweet M&M night for Coastal Carolina.
Senior closer Mike Morrison was the man on the mound as he recorded career highs with 6.2 innings pitched and 10 strikeouts in his first start of the season.
Senior Anthony Marks was the spark on offense as he went 3 for 4, knocked in two and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth.
Together, the pair helped CCU edge Arizona 5-4 Tuesday evening in front of 24,716 fans at TD Ameritrade Park to even the Championship Series of the 2016 College World Series at one game apiece.
“I am real proud of all these guys,” CCU head coach Gary Gilmore said. “Anthony Marks was incredible offensively for us with so many big hits. And Mike Morrison, what can I say about him?”
The Chanticleers (54-18) and the Wildcats (49-23) will play a third and final time on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT, with the winner claiming the national championship.
Morrison battled into the seventh inning, as he allowed six hits, two walks and two runs. He departed to a standing ovation with the scored tied at 2-2.
“When Coach [Drew] Thomas came out and got me,” Morrison said, “I put my heart and soul into this program for four years, and to end it like that, that was special. That standing ovation was probably the coolest thing that’s ever going to happen in my entire life.”
The game was still tied 2-2 heading to the eighth. Marks singled up the middle to start the inning and Michael Paez sacrificed him to second. Connor Owings hit a dunker into shallow left for a base hit. Marks got a great read on the ball, running right away and scoring easily from second to give the Chants a 3-2 lead.
“One we started locking in a little bit more,” Marks said, “we just started clicking offensively. We got a couple clutch hits tonight, and then next thing you know, the offense takes off.”
Zach Remillard doubled to move Owings to third. GK Young singled to right through a drawn-in infield to drive in both Remillard and Owings as CCU took a 5-2 advantage.
The Wildcats made some noise in the bottom of the eighth. Ryan Aguilar had a leadoff single, while Bobby Dalbec (2 for 3) and Cesar Salazar drew walks to load the bases with no outs. With one away, Justin Behnke hit into a fielder’s choice to knock in Aguilar and make it a 5-3 contest. Dalbec scored on an error to pull UA within one at 5-4. Bobby Holmes got Cody Ramer to fly out to left to end the threat.
Holmes (7-2) set UA down in order in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win, giving CCU a 5-0 record in elimination games in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
“I thought it was a great college baseball game,” UA head coach Jay Johnson said. “Two teams with good players going at it. One thing we always talk about is the team that deserves to win usually will. And in that case, it was Coastal. They were a little bit better with runners on base tonight and wiggled out of some jams.”
Arizona again got a run in the first, but could have had more. Ramer, who reached four times in Monday’s game, singled to center and moved to second when Zach Gibbons (3 for 5) had a base hit to center as well. JJ Matijevic tried to sacrifice, but his bunt attempt with two strikes went foul for a strikeout. Aguilar drew a walk to load the bases. Dalbec was not able to get a squeeze bunt down and Ramer was tagged out trying to get back to third. Dalbec did deliver a single through third baseman Remillard to drive in Gibbons with the game’s first run.
CCU answered in the top of the third. Billy Cooke had a leadoff single, moved to second on a wild pitch and was sacrificed to third by Kevin Woodall, Jr. David Parrett hit a high popup behind short that dropped in and was ruled an error. Parrett took second, while Cooke held at third. Marks singled to center to drive in Cooke and Parrett, giving the Chants a 2-1 advantage.
After stranding five over the first four frames, UA tied it in the fifth. Ramer drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on a base hit by Gibbons. With one away, Aguilar hit into a fielder’s choice. Ramer scored to knot the game at 2-2.
Kevin Ginkel pitched seven strong innings for the Wildcats, allowing five hits and two runs (one earned) with no walks and a career-best 10 strikeouts.
“To start the game, I was just trying to have my fastball command,” Ginkel said. “One we got through the lineup, once I started using my slider, and I had really good command with it tonight, they couldn’t really barrel anything up. A lot of swing and misses. And that gave me a chance to go deeper into the game. I’m happy with how I did tonight, but not happy that we lost.”