After a rain delay forced the final and deciding match of the College World Series, the two teams set to challenge for the title finally graced the field in Omaha today. After reports that arose that said Andrew Beckwith would not start the game yesterday, the ace pitcher for the Chanticleers took the mound and did his work.
Beckwith had been stifling offenses throughout the season with his side arm style and it proved to be no different against Arizona early on. The Wildcats did not have any idea on how to hit Beckwith as he forced many a ground out and fly out while the Cats tried to figure out where the ball was going to be and how fast it was coming in. While they struggled with that, their own starting pitcher was dealing as he had been since coming into Omaha.
Bobby Dalbec came into the game strong with five strike outs in the first four innings and ended his time on the mound with a total of eight K’s. Sadly his day was cut short due to a bad fielding error by Cody Ramer at second base where he had an easy ground out but sailed the ball and gave Coastal Carolina all the momentum they needed to put up four runs in the top of the sixth inning. Dalbec was quickly pulled and Cameron Ming was brought in to stop the bleeding. He carried the Cats out with only the four runs given up and kept the pressure on from the mound for the next two innings.
Arizona would not go out quietly however as they came right back with a two run rally in their half of the sixth to make it a game, even running Andrew Beckwith out of the game and bringing in Bobby Holmes to finish the last out. Cunningham came in after to start the seventh inning and took on the last thirteen batters Arizona had left in their arsenal before the game reached a climactic and heart throbbing bottom of the ninth.
Ramer came back in the ninth and made up for his error with a single that brought Boyd in to third who had walked just the prior at bat. Zach Gibbons, who had been dominating the plate since the arrival in Nebraska, sailed a ball out to center field and brought in the run to make it a one run game on the SAC fly. Ryan Aguilar came in then and blasted a shot that just landed fair in left field but quickly died after it landed rather than bouncing heavily off the dirt. The rain from yesterday seemed to still have an affect on the game as the mud on the warning track likely played a key role in how the ball simply hopped rather than bounced. Had it not died, Ramer would have likely scored the tying run.
Ryan Haug, who took over for a hurt Cesar Salazar after taking a full extension swing of a Coastal Carolina bat to his head, took over as the last out for the Wildcats. He worked to a full count and knew that he had to protect the plate on anything close. Cunningham threw a pitch to the outside of the plate, into a spot the umpire had been calling all game long. Haug took his swing to at least make contact. He missed. Coastal Carolina began their celebration.
For a team that had so little expectations going into the season, for them to end it just ninety feet short of potential extra innings in the final game of the college baseball season is no small achievement. The sting of the defeat will likely ring in these player’s ears for some time, but it was an exciting journey nonetheless. Now they know they can get here, and they beat some great teams to do it. Jay Johnson now has the opportunity to not just make this a surprise, but the expectation.