The Arizona Wildcats and Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are going to fight it out for the College World Series Championship after both teams took the long route to win their respective brackets.
Going into Friday's action in Omaha, Nebraska, the Wildcats and the Chanticleers were up against it versus the Oklahoma State Cowboys and TCU Horned Frogs, respectively. Both teams needed to win back-to-back games in order to emerge, while all their opponents had to do was win one of those two games.
The longer and harder route proved to be the winning one for Arizona and Coastal Carolina.
Head coach Jay Johnson's Wildcats jumped on Oklahoma State early in Saturday's bracket-deciding game and held on for a 5-1 victory. Coastal Carolina finished off TCU by a 7-5 margin a few hours later.
The Wildcats had a tough assignment when they took the field against the Cowboys, because Oklahoma State had Thomas Hatch on the mound. Arizona came right after the stud hurler and took the lead with a pair of runs in each of the first two innings, while Wildcats pitcher Bobby Dalbec held Oklahoma State's lineup in check.
Johnson will have to figure out who his starter will be Monday night when his team begins the best-of-three championship series with Coastal Carolina. But after scoring in both of the first two innings against Hatch and then knocking him out of the game in the third inning, the Wildcats are a confident bunch.
|2016 College World Series Final Round , Best-of-3|
|Game No.||Teams||Date||Time (ET)||TV|
|1||Arizona vs. Coastal Carolina||June 27||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|2||Coastal Carolina vs. Arizona||June 28||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|3 (if necessary)||Coastal Carolina vs. Arizona||June 29||8 p.m.||ESPN|
Arizona second baseman Cody Ramer explained to Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star that getting the early lead against Hatch was vital. “We knew if we jumped on them early it would be in our favor,” Ramer said. “That’s what we tried to do. That’s what I’m glad we did do.”
Coastal Carolina combined the powerful bat of Tyler Chadwick and the strong pitching of Alex Cunningham to earn its victory over the Horned Frogs.
Chadwick belted a home run and a double, while Cunningham gave up eight hits and four runs while pitching 6.1 tough innings before handing the ball over to Bobby Holmes.
Coastal Carolina head coach Gary Gilmore said his team has exceeded his dreams in getting to the championship round.
"It's kind of like I'm in a dream. I'm scared to pinch myself, to be quite honest," Gilmore said, per Eric Olson of the Associated Press. "Coming from where I started 21 years ago, and where our university was and where we're at today and on this stage is one of the most incredible things I could imagine. I dreamt of coming to Omaha. I don't know if I ever dreamt getting to this point."
Chadwick's home run went over the right-center field wall and opened the scoring in the second inning. "We pride ourselves on being relentless and getting it done when people are in scoring position," Chadwick told Olson. "For us to be the team we want to be, the team we've been all year, we have to hit No. 1 through No. 9."
Chadwick's astute analysis of his team's relentlessness is probably the biggest single factor in explaining how Coastal Carolina has gotten this far. The talent level is high, but it is the continuous ability to apply pressure to their opponents that has allowed the Chanticleers to keep on winning.
However, that same assessment applies to Arizona. Both teams took a long, hard road to get to the College World Series final, and it would not be a surprise to see the championship series play out in three thrilling final acts.