This was always the goal, for two-plus decades now since Gary Gilmore took over the baseball program at his alma mater and began building it into a national contender. And then rebuilding it back again.
This was one of the reasons he turned down an opportunity to coach in the SEC at Auburn eight years ago, to have a chance to experience this dream with this school – his school.
And that dream came true Sunday night.
After a resolve-testing, gut-wrenching and nearly disastrous top of the ninth inning in which Coastal Carolina squandered a one-run lead and nearly more, the Chanticleers finished off a dramatic 4-3 walk-off win over host LSU to complete a two-game sweep of the teams’ NCAA Super Regional series at Alex Box Stadium and clinch the program’s first College World Series berth.
As the players streamed out of the dugout after Michael Paez’s chopper over the third baseman brought home Anthony Marks for the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, Gilmore jumped into the arms of his assistant coaches as they met him by the third base line.
“I tell you what, players and moments and 21 years at Coastal Carolina have flashed in front of my brain,” he said a few minutes later down on the field. “As Marks is rounding third base and I knew they didn’t really have a good shot at him, I mean, it’s incredible. I must have had about 100,000 thoughts go right through my head in that moment of time. It was unbelievable.”
It really was one heck of a way to end the wait.
Just three outs from punching their ticket to Omaha, the Chants (49-16) nearly let this one slip away entirely in the top of the ninth as LSU (45-21) tied the game and threatened to seize control after trailing the whole way.
The inning had started ominously for the Chants when freshman second baseman Cameron Pearcey, making his first start since March 22 as an injury replacement for starter Seth Lancaster, fielded a ground ball and threw wide to first pulling Kevin Woodall Jr. off the bag as Cole Freeman reached safely.
Freeman then took second on a wild pitch from reliever Bobby Holmes, Antoine Duplantis walked and Jake Fraley laid down a bunt to move the runners over. Third baseman Zach Remillard had to charge in and make a quick throw with Pearcey covering first, and after the rookie caught the ball Fraley plowed through him jarring it free as the tying run came in to score.
Holmes got Kramer Robertson to then ground out for the first out and intentionally walked Greg Deichmann to load the bases before delivering the biggest pitch of his career – a 3-2 strikeout of pinch-hitter Brody Wofford – and getting Beau Jordan to fly out to left to strand the bags full.
“To be honest with you I don’t really remember, I kind of black out in moments like that,” Holmes said later of his thoughts during that tense spot.
The ending, though, nobody associated with Coastal Carolina will ever forget.