Arizona is now one game away from a national championship, but Coastal Carolina is not giving up on its magical season just yet.
The Wildcats took a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three series on the back of pitcher JC Cloney, who threw a complete game shutout in a 3-0 win Monday. After an outstanding run to get to the finals of the College World Series, they just have to win one of their next two games to bring home the fifth title in school history.
However, Coastal Carolina has been the underdog throughout most of the tournament. The Chanticleers were almost eliminated in the regionals by North Carolina State but survived that, eventually beating LSU, Florida, Texas Tech and TCU en route to the CWS finals. This also includes three straight wins over Big 12 schools with the season on the line.
While Arizona has the advantage, this series is far from over, keeping things interesting heading into Game 2 on Tuesday.
College World Series Game 2
When: Tuesday, June 28
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Where: TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Arizona doesn't have the deepest lineup, but it has players who can beat you, especially at the top. Cody Ramer, Zach Gibbons and Ryan Aguilar had five of the team's six hits in Game 1 and all three RBI, something not too uncommon with this squad.
Gibbons has especially been red hot this postseason and clearly is doing everything he can to bring a championship to Tucson.
However, Cloney's heroics Monday night showed the real strength of this team: pitching. Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star noted just how good the staff has been in Omaha:
Cloney won't be able to pitch again in Game 2, but the Wildcats will be just fine.
Then again, Coastal Carolina will be happy to see anyone else on the mound after being completely shut down in the first contest. Head coach Gary Gilmore noted his team's state after the opening loss.
"We know where we're at. If we lose, it's over, obviously," Gilmore said, per the Associated Press (via USA Today). "At this point we just want to play really aggressively and really hard and compete and play with a lot of confidence. Cloney, I honestly think he just kind of took a little bit of that away from us tonight."
Even with another likely solid pitcher coming in Tuesday, Coastal Carolina should fare better offensively. The squad has plenty of talent and has been better when desperate this postseason, averaging 6.3 runs in four games while facing elimination in the NCAA tournament.
Connor Owings, Zach Remillard and the rest of the lineup are too good to not make an impact.
Meanwhile, a major question for the Chanticleers involves whom their pitcher will be for Game 2. Gilmore is adamant ace Andrew Beckwith would not get the ball after throwing 137 pitches last Friday, per Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball:
This likely leaves Jason Bilous, who only lasted 2.1 innings against Texas Tech while allowing three runs. Before that, he last pitched in the clinching game of the regionals, when he gave up two runs in 3.2 innings.
The bullpen can possibly bail him out like it did the last few times, but without top pitchers like Beckwith or Alex Cunningham, the Chanticleers are left without their best options in the most important game of the year. This is not an enviable position to be in.
While Game 2 should feature a lot more offense than the 3-0 opener, we could see the same end result with Arizona earning another win and a College World Series title.
Prediction: Arizona 6, Coastal Carolina 4
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