A 17-hour postponement, back-to-back errors, and a missed call at home by the umpire.
That’s some of what the Arizona Wildcats had to deal with in yesterday’s College World Series championship game, which they lost after Coastal Carolina scored four runs in the sixth inning and then hung on by their fingernails for a 4-3 victory and the national title.
The game was still scoreless going into the sixth inning but the Chanticleers put runners on second and third with two outs in the top of the frame. Cody Ramer bobbled a high-hopping grounder that should have been a routine out, and then followed that with a wild throw to third. That resulted in the first two runs of the game – and then shortly after, C.K. Young slammed a two-run homer to give Carolina just enough runs for the win.
Arizona rallied right away in the bottom of the frame when Jared Oliva poked a single through the left side of the infield with bases loaded to score two runs.
The Cats added another score in the bottom of the ninth when Zach Gibbons flied out to center to score Louis Boyd, who had opened the inning for the Cats by getting waved to first on four straight pitches.
That made it 4-3. But Arizona wasn’t done yet.
Ryan Aguilar drove a double into the right field corner and Ramer considered rounding third and trying to get home to tie the game, but was held up at third.
With runners on second and third and two outs, the Wildcats had one last chance to win it, but Ryan Haug struck out for the final out of the game. Haug entered the line-up in the eighth inning to replace catcher Caesar Salazar, who was hit in the back of the head by the bat on the final swing of the seventh inning.
It would have been a tie game at that point, except for a missed call early in the game.
In the bottom of the third, Ramer had singled and worked his way to third base. He tried to make it to home on a high-bouncing infield hit that was caught by the pitcher, but was called out. The television replay clearly showed that Ramer’s head-first slide beat the tag.
And while the postponement from Wednesday night to Thursday noon (CT) due to a storm that blew through the area, it probably worked more against Arizona. Carolina head coach Gary Gilmore was planning to start Alex Cunningham instead of his ace, Andrew Beckwith. But, with an extra night to think about it, he changed his mind and started the final game with Beckwith.
That turned out to be a good move for the Chants. Beckwith, a submarine-style thrower, held Arizona scoreless for five innings by striking out 14 batters.
He was relieved by Bobby Holmes with two outs in the sixth. Holmes took over with two on base and two out and ended the Wildcat threat by striking out Boyd for the third out.
It wasn’t like the Cats didn’t have enough opportunity. They collected eight hits and put a runner in scoring position in six out of the nine innings.
Bobby Dalbec started for Arizona and struck out eight over 5 2/3 innings but was credited with the loss because the Chanticleers’ four runs came on his watch before Cameron Ming took the mound with two outs in the sixth. Ming joined with Cody Deason to finish the game.
This was one of those games that had a feel-good story, regardless of who won. Arizona (49-24) had been picked by the Pac-12 coaches to finish ninth this year and were playing for a coach who had just taken over the program. Jay Johnson had been a head coach for just three seasons and had come from a much less-prominent program at University of Nevada.
The fact that he even got this team to Omaha was an incredible achievement in itself.
And Coastal Carolina (55-18) was an even bigger ‘Cinderella’ story. That school had never won a national championship in any sport before yesterday, although Gilmore has been trying to get the baseball program there for the last 21 years.
This is a mid-major school of 10,000 students in South Carolina with a quirky mascot name that plays in the Big South Conference. To earn this title, the Chanticleers had to work their way through a gauntlet of teams from the traditional power conferences.
Unfortunately for Wildcat fans, this was their year.
Oh yeah, in case you were wondering…a chanticleer is a rooster.
(Photo: Coastal Carolina Athletics)