Andrew Beckwith, Mike Morrison and Connor Owings became accustomed to winning while growing up in the Midlands. Just because the stakes became higher playing for Coastal Carolina in the College World Series did not mean they were ready to stop.
The local trio helped the Chanticleers to their first national title as Coastal topped Arizona 4-3 Thursday.
Beckwith, who starred at Blythewood High, was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player after going 3-0 and allowing only two earned runs in 23 2/3 innings in Omaha.
After Arizona beat Coastal in Game 1 of the championship series, Morrison, a Gilbert product, helped keep the Chanticleers alive by throwing 6 2/3 innings while allowing two runs and striking out 10 in Game 2.
Owings, a fellow Gilbert alum, went 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs in an elimination game against TCU earlier in the CWS.
All three played an important role in the Chanticleers’ run to history.
“I think one thing that sticks out to me is all of these kids have won. At Gilbert they won a couple of state championships. Over here we lost in the state championship when Andrew was a senior, but we’ve won constantly,” said Barry Mizzell, who coached Beckwith at Blythewood. “These kids come from winning programs. They’re used to winning.”
Mizzell began coaching Beckwith when he was 11 years old.
The calmness the junior showed during an incredible run in Omaha did not surprise Mizzell, who said he witnessed it at an early age.
Beckwith allowed one run in a complete-game victory over No. 1 seed Florida to open the CWS and held TCU to one run in a complete-game victory later in an elimination game.
He also got the start and earned the win in the clinching game on Thursday, not allowing an earned run in 5 2/3 innings.
“Andrew has always been a kid that’s extremely, extremely competitive. He was like that when he was little and he was like that when I coached him in high school,” Mizzell said. “Watching him on the big stage, what’s impressive is he’s just Andrew. He’s always been a confident kid and a mentally tough kid. He’s doing the same thing that he’s always done.”
The same can be said for Morrison and Owings, who led Gilbert to a 30-2 record and state title as seniors in high school.
“They were not going to take second place in anything,” Gilbert coach Ashley Burnett said. “Their effort and determination to come out on top is second to none. They really worked hard for their success.”
Despite the three putting together a long list of individual accomplishments during their high school careers, they were not heavily recruited.
Beckwith drew interest from Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston but power five schools stayed away, while Owings and Morrison did not receive much interest at all and ended up walking on at Coastal after a tryout.
“That chip on their shoulder was permanently placed to prove to everyone that they belong and that they’re one of the best,” Burnett said of the former Gilbert stars.
“(Andrew) wasn’t a highly-recruited kid even though he was very successful in high school and won a lot of games for us,” Mizzell said. “I think they’ve got a chip on their shoulder coming from a small school, being an underdog. These kids have make up. They have a lot of the attributes of the really, really good players.”
While the Midlands is full of South Carolina and Clemson fans, much of the state adopted Coastal Carolina during its run to the national championship.
A total of nine players from South Carolina were on the Coastal roster, including Thursday’s home-run hitting G.K. Young, who is from Conway, and the pitcher who got the final out -- Alex Cunningham from Duncan.
Burnett said Gilbert was full of people rooting for Owings, Morrison and the Chanticleers.
“I’m surprised the cellular networks didn’t shut down and get overloaded when the games were going on with the texts going back and forth and tweets going back and forth throughout the entire town,” he said. “It’s been really special for the entire town of Gilbert.”
Mizzell’s son Chaz, who grew up playing with Beckwith, traveled to Omaha with a group of friends from Blythewood to cheer Coastal Carolina during the championship series.
“Everybody’s kind of jumped on the bandwagon, and I think a lot of the state has too,” Mizzell said. “It’s been kind of crazy around here. I still teach and I’m here at the school and everybody’s talking about it.”
Pictured: Connor Owings, Mike Morrison with CWS trophy
CWS stats: 3-0, 0.78 ERA, 14 Ks, 4 BBs
Note: Beckwith earned complete game wins over Florida and TCU and earned the victory in the title clinching win Thursday against Arizona.
CWS stats: 1-0, 3.65 ERA, 17 Ks, 7 BBs
Note: Morrison, CCU's closer, got the start in Game 2 of the championship series and pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs while striking out 10 in Coastal's 5-4 win.
CWS stats: 3-for-25, 3R, 3 RBIs, 2B
Note: Owings struggled at times in Omaha but led the Chanticleers in batting average all season. He went 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs in an elimination game against TCU.