(photo by Eric Sorenson)
OMAHA, Neb. – It was a blast and a relay that highlighted the game.
G.K. Young belted a two-run homer to cap a four-run sixth and Anthony Marks dug a double out of the left field corner in the bottom of the ninth to keep the tying run from scoring as Coastal Carolina edged Arizona 4-3 Wednesday afternoon in the finale of the 2016 College World Series to win the school’s first national championship in any sport.
The Chanticleers (55-18) became the first team to win a national title in baseball in its initial trip to Omaha since Minnesota in 1956.
“It’s meant to be,” CCU head coach Gary Gilmore said. “If there’s such a thing as a team of destiny, this group is it.”
After five scoreless frames, CCU started the scoring in the top of the sixth against starter Bobby Dalbec. Nine-hole hitter David Parrett drew a leadoff walk and was sacrificed to second by Marks. Michael Paez also walked and both runners moved up on a wild pitch to Connor Owings on strike 3. Zach Remillard hit a bouncer to the second base bag. Second baseman Cody Ramer was position perfectly, but could not field the ball cleanly, which allowed Parrett to score. Ramer tried to throw behind Paez at third, but his throw was wide and Paez came home to make it 2-0.
“That whole inning started with David Parrett,” Marks said. “Yet again, David Parrett coming up big for us, gets himself a walk. And like our offense has done all year, we look for one person to spark us and five us that one good quality at-bat and get everyone else going.”
On an 0-2 pitch, Young blasted a homer to right over the bullpen to give the Chants a 4-0 cushion. It was his 18th long ball of the season.
“We took full advantage of one mistake that they made,” Marks said, “which I don’t think they made too many mistakes. We made the most of our opportunity. That ballpark wasn’t holding G.K. this whole tournament, no way.”
Jared Oliva had a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth as the Wildcats (49-24) cut the deficit in half at 4-2.
Arizona made it interesting in the ninth. Louis Boyd drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on a single to right by Ramer. Zach Gibbons hit a fly ball to center deep enough to score Boyd and make it a 4-3 contest. Ryan Aguilar hit a double into the left field corner. Marks retrieved it quickly and his relay throw to the shortstop Paez forced the speedy Ramer to stay at third.
“It’s the play of the season in college baseball,” UA head coach Jay Johnson said of Marks’ play. “We play aggressively, and with two outs we’re sending guys. The shortstop had the ball when Cody, who is a great runner, was at third base. He would have been out by 100 feet. I can’t believe the play was made. You’ve got to tip your hat to Anthony. I can’t believe he made the play and got there as quickly as he did.”
Marks had experience with that kind of play in the corner.
“Our ballpark, in the corner, is very similar,” Gilmore said. “It’s real tight. So he’s had an opportunity to dig balls out of the corner all year long.
“I’m a believer that runners stop if you field the ball correctly and unload the baseball. And he fielded it clean, wheeled and turned and threw an accurate throw. For me, that was the play of the game. That was an intense moment that any margin of error he has at all, that runner scores and it’s a tie game.”
With the winning run in scoring position, Alex Cunningham was able to strike out Ryan Haug to end the game and start the Chanticleer celebration.
“Running joke,” Cunningham said, “none of you probably know this, in high school, I lost the state championship three times in a row. I was not going to lose this.”
CCU starter Andrew Beckwith (15-1) earned the win, going 5.2 innings with six hits, two unearned runs, three walks and two strikeouts. Bobby Holmes got a strikeout to leave a pair stranded in the sixth before Cunningham (2 H, R, 3 BB, K) pitched the final three frames to record his first save.
Arizona had several chances early to score, especially in the third. With one away, Ramer singled to right. The ball got past Owings for a two-base error, allowing Ramer to reach third. Gibbons hit a come-backer to Beckwith, who threw home to nail Ramer on a close play at the plate. After a single by Aguilar moved Gibbons to second, Cesar Salazar fouled out to third to keep the game scoreless. The Wildcats stranded 10 in the game, including seven in scoring position.
Dalbec (11-6) suffered the loss, working 5.2 innings with four hits, four unearned runs, three walks and eight strikeouts.