A national championship is coming to Conway.
Coastal Carolina capitalized on two errors on the same play for four unearned runs in the sixth inning, and the Chanticleers won their first national championship in any sport with a 4-3 victory over Arizona in Game 3 of the College World Series finals on Thursday.
“It’s indescribable,” Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. “We’re not the most talented team in America. We’re just the national champion. That’s all that matters.”
The Chanticleers (55-18) became the first program since Minnesota in 1956 to win the title in its first CWS appearance. Arizona (49-24) was trying for its second national title since 2012.
Andrew Beckwith (15-1), the former Blythewood High standout who led the nation in wins, went 5 2/3 innings after pitching two complete games and picked up his third victory of the CWS. He was named the Most Outstanding Player.
“He’s been coaching for 21 years, and he deserves every bit of it,” Beckwith said of Gilmore. “We got him to Omaha and we got him a national championship. The senior class, the hard work in the fall, the dedication of the guys who don’t play much. It doesn’t go unnoticed. It was a full team effort the whole College World Series, and we got it done.”
Alex Cunningham earned his first save, striking out Ryan Haug with a full-count fastball to end the game after Arizona had pulled within a one in the bottom of the ninth. When Haug swung and missed, Cunningham turned to his dugout, beat his chest with his fist three times and saluted before flipping his glove away to start the celebration.
“The last three innings, all I’ve been doing in the dugout is folding my hands and praying to God that this is His will,” Gilmore said. “I know my dad’s up there. I lost him two years ago, and I wanted him so bad to be here with me. I know he’s watching over me right now.”
The championship also was the first in a team sport in the 33-year history of the Big South Conference. The Big South could savor the accomplishment for only about eight hours. The Chanticleers become members of the Sun Belt Conference on Friday.
“This program has been a lot better than people give it credit for,” Gilmore said. “They thought we played in a small conference and couldn’t get this done. This bunch wanted to prove everybody wrong.”
Arizona, which came into the day with just two errors in seven CWS games, saw second baseman Cody Ramer commit two on the same play in the sixth inning. Ramer couldn’t get a handle on Zach Remillard’s grounder, allowing David Parrett to score from third. Then Ramer tried to get Michael Paez running from second to third, but he overthrew Kyle Lewis. That allowed Paez to come home. G.K. Young then launched a no-doubt homer into the seats above the right-field bullpen for a 4-0 lead.
“It’s the best feeling of my life,” Young said. “I’m trying not to cry right now. Just dreaming of that in my head since I was 10 years old, hitting a home run in the College World Series. I never would have thought it would come in the championship game.”
Coastal mojo was apparent in Omaha. Every year the local College World Series fans gravitate toward an underdog or first-time participant.
The Chanticleers fit both descriptions.
In his 21st season at Coastal Carolina, his alma mater, Gilmore led the Chants to a 55-18 record, a dramatic clinching victory at the NCAA regionals in Raleigh, N.C., and then a stunning sweep in the Super Regionals at LSU to earn the program’s first CWS berth.
The Chants are now the fourth team outside the traditional power conferences to win the College World Series in the last 20 years, joining Rice (2003), Cal State Fullerton (2004) and Fresno State (2008).
The title is the third for the state, joining the South Carolina Gamecocks’ CWS crowns in 2010 and 2011.
The Chanticleers’ previous best finish in any NCAA team championship was fifth in men’s golf in 2007, when Dustin Johnson led the team.