Until this afternoon, Coastal Carolina had never won a national championship in a team sport, the Big South Conference had never had a national champion, and no College World Series participant had won the title in their first appearance in the finals in 60 years. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers made all sorts of history this afternoon when Alex Cunningham struck out Arizona’s Ryan Haug swinging in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure the 2016 CWS championship.
The game was tense throughout, and the result was up in the air until the last at-bat of the game. Coastal Carolina took advantage of a pair of errors committed by Arizona second baseman Cody Ramer to score all four of their runs in the sixth inning, two off the error, and two more on a big G.K. Young donger:
Arizona scored off a sacrifice fly in the ninth to come within a run, and eventually had men on second and third with two outs and a full count. It’s the stuff of baseball lore, a World Series coming down to the final at-bat. A single could have gifted the Wildcats a walk-off win, but Cunningham, who put in three innings of relief work, punched him out.
Coastal Carolina only got to a third and final CWS game after coach Gary Gilmore went and started the team’s closer in their 5-4 in in Game 2. They had to play six elimination games in the CWS. Gilmore, who has coached the team all 21 years they have been a Division I program, was suitably excited with the win:
“Whenever I die, I’ll know this group of guys here, they willed themselves to be the national champion,” Gilmore said. “It was just meant to be, no doubt. If there is such a thing as a team of destiny, this group is it.”
Tampa Bay’s Taylor Motter is the only active MLB player from Coastal Carolina, and, thankfully, the Rays filmed his reaction to the final out:
In South Carolina solidarity, Clemson football players also freaked out:
Coastal Carolina will leave the Big South for the Sun Belt Conference tomorrow, and Arizona, ever the powerhouse, will probably find its way back to the CWS soon enough. This sort of underdog story probably couldn’t happen in college football or college basketball (although it’s a lot more likely in March Madness). Even if this is Coastal Carolina’s only chance to win a national championship, their 2016 run to the CWS title a historic, program-defining achievement.