After it was all over with, Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore reflected on the unusual obstacle his team faced in its winner-take-all regional final with NC State, having the game stalled in the ninth inning Monday night and resumed Tuesday afternoon.
His thoughts at that time were probably far more reserved than they were when the game was halted due to rain just as his Chanticleers had loaded the bases the previous night.
“I was ticked off we didn’t finish the game, but I don’t know, the older I get the more I read the Bible, the more I pray and I just feel like, ‘OK, God, if this is your will, OK let’s go home,’ ” Gilmore said. “We’ll come back tomorrow, it will be bright and we’ll have the bases loaded.”
As it played out, the Chants returned to action Tuesday and promptly scored four runs in that top of the ninth inning to erase a two-run deficit and earn a 7-5 win over host NC State at Doak Field while advancing to the NCAA super regionals.
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The players admitted they didn’t get much sleep the night before and shared their own thoughts on the nearly 14-hour delay that led up to their dramatic finish.
“Last night was obviously difficult,” senior third baseman Zach Remillard said. “But I think everyone knew the circumstances, and no matter what our season was on the line. So whatever we had to do, we were going to go out and get it.”
The hotel the team was staying at had some difficulty with its room cards and it was even later that the players finally got to their rooms.
“Just the sitting and waiting and getting to the hotel at 1:30,” senior first baseman Tyler Chadwick said. “But it just speaks to what this group is. We’ll adjust to anything, it doesn’t matter. We’re just grinders and wanting to play, and I’m so happy for everyone. It’s a great feeling.”
Morrison locks it down
There has been no shortage of adjectives and praise spoken in regard to senior closer Mike Morrison this season, as much as he’d prefer the attention be on anyone else.
After he closed out the regional championship with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth Tuesday, his teammates had even more to say about the back-of-the-bullpen stalwart.
There may be no more respected player on this team, and it’s not just because of his 0.79 earned-run average, 7-1 record and 10 saves.
“Mike is one of my best friends in the entire world, and that guy deserves it more than anyone,” Remillard said. “He works hard, he does all the right things and there was no doubt in my mind once we got the lead for him that game was in the books. I love that kid like a brother.”
Added junior designated hitter G.K. Young: “I get picked on a good bit for saying how much I love those guys, those seniors, but Mike Morrison is one of the hardest working young men I have ever met in my life. He deserves everything he’s gotten. I’ve never seen a pitcher work as hard as he does, and I’m as proud as I have ever been to have a teammate like him. He’s a leader, he’s a brother and I will never ever forget him as long as I live.”
Morrison, who was named a first-team Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball All-American earlier this week, pitched 4 2/3 hitless innings overall in the tournament.
He was trying to watch the Chants’ comeback from the bullpen as best he could Tuesday before taking the mound to do his part.
“Honestly I didn’t think I was going to get enough time to get loose,” he said. “The bullpen is a little offset so you can’t see where the hitters are, so we would run over to the rail and watch the pitch, run back and throw two pitches. … Seth [Lancaster] got the hit, we started cranking it up and it was go time.”
He sealed with two groundouts and a fly ball to centerfielder Billy Cooke. His 10 saves are tied for fifth on the program’s single-season record list.
“[Freshman catcher] Peyton Isaacson was warming me up in the bullpen and I couldn’t throw a dang curveball to save my life, so he thought I was in trouble,” Morrison said. “I was telling him, ‘Just calm down and we’ll get out there, I’ll take some breaths and it will be alright.’”
One of the more underrated moments of that epic ninth-inning rally was Chadwick fighting off an 0-2 count with two outs and getting himself on base via hit by pitch to give Lancaster a chance to hit his go-ahead two-run single.
Chadwick, who was pinch-hitting for Kevin Woodall Jr., fouled off two pitches after falling behind 0-2 before taking his free pass, but he says he wasn’t feeling any pressure with the team’s season on the line.
“I really didn’t feel much. I got into kind of my two-strike approach and I was just trying to [look] fastball and adjust,” he said. “He was throwing pretty firm, and I was feeling good with the adrenaline going. I saw his slider on the first 0-2 and fouled it off, so I had kind of seen everything I was going to get and sure enough he came back with a slider in and it happened to clip me on the knee. Thank God it did.”
Chadwick had been out the final three games of the regional until that point due to an oblique injury.
“I was just praying to God that I could get some swings off without having any pain,” he said. “We’ve been rehabbing it, stemming it, ultrasounding it, trying to get it just to loosen up a little bit to where it’s not so painful to swing. But yeah, I didn’t have any pain that whole at-bat. Just the adrenaline of that situation and knowing it could possibly be our team’s last at-bat, I was just trying to get a pitch to hit.”
Bilous away from team
Freshman right-hander Jason Bilous, who started the final game, was not with the team when it ended.
He left Monday night after throwing 3 2/3 innings (allowing two runs on six hits and three walks) to travel to his grandfather’s funeral, Gilmore said, but the players FaceTimed with him after the big win Tuesday.
“His grandfather passed away a few days ago. We didn’t think this thing was going to go into Monday night. He had to go to his grandfather’s funeral,” Gilmore said. “The kids FaceTimed him here on the bus so that was a great moment for him and the rest of the guys. They love that guy.”
▪ Junior righty Andrew Beckwith was credited with the win in the regional championship after throwing two innings of relief Monday night while giving up one run on three hits.
The win improves him to 12-1 for the season and ties him for fifth on the program’s single-season wins list.
▪ Remillard was named Most Outstanding Player in the regional while Morrison, Lancaster and Cooke were also named to the All-Raleigh Regional Team.