The 2016 College World Series will go the full distance after Coastal Carolina got off the mat in Tuesday's 5-4 victory over Arizona to force a decisive Game 3 on Wednesday.
Chanticleers head coach Gary Gilmore put it best with a brief but fitting postgame comment. He said, per the club's official Twitter feed, "Wow what a baseball game."
One person to thank was senior Mike Morrison, who made the transition from closer to starter in Omaha, Nebraska, and gave Coastal Carolina a big boost. He saved the Chants' season with a solid Game 2 outing, striking out 10 and giving up only two runs over 6.2 innings.
Morrison commented on the warm reception he received when he left the mound for the final time in his college career after throwing 103 pitches.
"I poured my heart and soul into this program for [four] years [and] that standing ovation was one of the coolest things to happen in my life," said Morrison, per the team.
Although Morrison ultimately emerged with a no-decision start, he kept Arizona in check long enough for CCU's capable bats to come alive in the eighth, when the Chants erupted for three runs to gain a comfortable lead.
The pitcher's impact was evident on his teammate, left fielder Anthony Marks, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI and spoke about how Morrison influenced him.
The Wildcats bounced back with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the eighth, but Bobby Holmes retired the side in the ninth against Arizona's Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters to close out the win in style.
Holmes spoke about how he tried to stay composed during the chaotic sequence in which he yielded two runs—one due to an error by shortstop Michael Paez.
"I'm no stranger to adversity, so I'm almost more comfortable in those situations than with a 3-1 lead I think," Holmes said, per the video above. "But the eighth inning, I don't think I took a breath the whole time, so I kind of had to regroup in the dugout and tell myself I was going to be all right."
Despite his club suffering the defeat following Game 1's dominant 3-0 win, Arizona head coach Jay Johnson seemed to have the attitude of embracing Wednesday's all-or-nothing affair.
"That's why I've woken up every day the last...15 years is for something like tomorrow night. Players [are] no different," Johnson said, per College Baseball 360.
Credit goes to the Chanticleers for making the proper adjustments with a mere 24 hours to process their loss in the championship opener. Their high-octane batting order finally came through despite having to deal with an embarrassing shutout from Game 1.
But Arizona's defensive shifts can still baffle even the most formidable of opponents, and its wealth of pitching depth will afford Johnson the opportunity to call on everyone besides Kevin Ginkel.
Ginkel matched his Tuesday counterpart Morrison with 10 strikeouts through seven innings, only to see Cameron Ming get tagged for the decisive three runs.
"I'm happy with how I did tonight, but I'm not happy that we lost," Ginkel said after the game.
It hasn't been uncommon for the Chants to rally. Per SportsCenter, they improved to 5-0 in elimination games on Tuesday, including 4-0 in the College World Series.
For a baseball program that is making its maiden trip to the high-stakes atmosphere of Omaha, Coastal Carolina has proved it belongs among the elite. Gilmore perhaps best summarized the Chants' resilient mindset following Game 2's triumph.
"They just keep believing that this is their destiny," Johnson said of his team. He added, regarding Game 3: "You see how people play in the Super Bowl and they make it bigger than life [...] I just want us to play in character. If we can do that, we'll be fine."
It's easy to have faith in Coastal Carolina and its steady coach, who has seen the program evolve from mid-major darling to a national force to be reckoned with.
The Chants have proved themselves time and again and were likely counted out in the aftermath of Game 1's flop. Now they have a chance to prove any remaining skeptics wrong one last time when they play for all the marbles Wednesday night.
Note: Quotes without links are transcribed from the embedded NCAA On Demand video.