What more can you say about the 2016 NCAA College World Series?
What a way to wrap up what has been an incredible season and an incredible NCAA Tournament.
Congratulations go out to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers for winning their first national championship — on their first visit to Omaha no less — with a two-games-to-one takedown of the Arizona Wildcats.
It wouldn’t have been right for this postseason, which was filled with a lot of tight games, to end on anything else other than a strikeout with two runners in scoring position in a one-run game.
So how did the Chanticleers, the ultimate dark horse, do it?
Andrew Beckwith, who was named the CWS Most Outstanding Player, pitched masterfully in his three appearances, shutting down Florida, TCU, and Arizona along the way. It is amazing to think that this team almost didn’t make it out of their regional, as they were down to their final strike before they came back and beat a very good North Carolina State team to advance to the Super Regional.
From there they went to Baton Rouge, which is probably one of the hardest places for a visiting team to play in the entire country. The crazy LSU fans didn’t faze the Chanticleers at all though, as they were able to sweep the Tigers and advance to Omaha for the first time in school history.
They were the team unfortunate enough to match up with the Florida Gators, the team everybody was picking to win the whole tournament. But Coastal Carolina, the little school that could, didn’t let the media (or even my predictions) stop them from dominating Florida to start the CWS, holding them to just one run.
The Chantacleers’ next game was against TCU, and was the only game where it looked like the aura of Omaha really got to them, as they lost 6-1 in a game that wasn’t ever close. Losing this game meant CC would not only have to beat Texas Tech the next day, but it would also have to beat TCU twice. The Chanticleers would use three Red Raiders’ errors to their advantage to win 7-5, and set up at least one more rematch with the Horned Frogs. To advance, The Chanticleers would have to win that rematch, along with another game the following day.
Like the previous contest against Texas Tech, the Chanticleers were able to capitalize on some TCU mistakes, winning the first game 4-1 behind a complete game from Beckwith. In the deciding semi-final game, the Chanticleer bats came alive early, getting CC a 7-1 lead by the end of the fourth inning. They were able to use incredible pitching to stave off TCU and advance to the Championship Series with a 7-5 victory.
The Arizona Wildcats would be the team from the other bracket to make it to the finals. Like CC, Arizona had to come back in its bracket and beat a very good Oklahoma State team twice to make it the championship round. Resiliency was not lacking in this series, so you knew it was going to be an exciting series, and it didn’t disappoint.
In game one, Arizona was able to get a four-hit shutout win from C.J. Cloney, so again the Chanticleers were going to have to fight back and win two in a row to achieve the dream ending to their season. In game two, the Chanticleers would once again stave off elimination, scoring three runs in the top of the eighth to escape with a 5-4 win.
With this win, the finals were tied 1-1, and a winner-take-all national championship stage was set.
In such an important situation, CC Coach Gary Gilmore knew that he had to put his stud pitcher, Beckwith, out there to give his team the best chance to win. And Beckwith did not disappoint. While he was not as sharp in this game as he was in other CC wins, he did enough to set the bullpen up to finish the game off behind him.
Arizona’s starter, Bobby Dalbec, also pitched very well for the Wildcats to keep things close. However, Dalbec ran into trouble in the sixth, and ended up surrendering four runs, which provided the Chanticleers with a 4-0 lead.
Arizona cut that lead in half in the bottom of the sixth, and the Wildcats managed another run during a ninth-inning rally, putting runners on second and third with two outs.
However, CC reliever Alex Cunningham struck out Ryan Haug to secure Coastal Carolina’s first National Championship in school history.
It was a thrilling way to end what was an incredible tournament.