The response reverberated through one of college baseball’s loudest ballparks as Louisiana State’s Greg Deichmann crushed a three-run home run into the back of the right field bleachers in the fourth inning Saturday night.
The chants of “L-S-U” from a crowd of more than 11,000 cascaded over Alex Box Stadium in one of those scenes that people might speak of in venerating this place – the kind that can swallow up opposing teams in such tide-turning moments.
But this Coastal Carolina bunch hasn’t been fazed by anything these last five weeks, and the Chanticleers quickly showed they had no interest playing into that narrative on this night.
After trading runs in the fifth inning and wiggling out of a bases-loaded jam to keep their deficit at two runs, the Chants collected four runs in the sixth to seize control on the way to a 11-8 win over LSU in the opening game of the teams’ best-of-three NCAA super regional series.
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With that, Coastal Carolina (48-16) is just one win away from its first College World Series berth – the closest it’s ever been – and will have a chance to clinch when the teams continue the series here Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET.
“I’ll say it, no matter what happens the next two days there’s an unbelievable brotherhood among this group of guys and they just flat-out won’t let each other down,” Chants coach Gary Gilmore said.
Junior G.K. Young and seniors Connor Owings and Zach Remillard hit home runs for the Chants, sophomore Bobby Holmes pitched 1 2/3 key innings out of the bullpen to earn the win and senior closer Mike Morrison sealed it by throwing the final three frames.
We’ve got a long way to go to get another win here. That’s a very talented and proud team and I’m sure they’re going to come at us [Sunday] way harder than they even came at us today if that’s possible. I know we’ve got a lot in front of us to be able to accomplish that.
CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore
And it really was simply an incredible and sudden sea change as the Chants – who have now won 17 of their last 19 games – stunned the home fans and put LSU (45-20) on the brink of elimination.
As Gilmore and Owings would say, though, there is still a long way to go before this mountain is finally scaled.
“That’s a very good ballclub and they’ve got definitely the arms to get the job done, and we’re just going to try to do what we’ve done all season, stick with our process and take it one pitch at a time,” Owings said. “Just trust each other, keep picking each other up – that’s what we’ve done all season and we’re just going to stick to it.”
That was certainly the story of the night Saturday.
Deichmann’s home run – just a mammoth blast and his fourth homer of the NCAA tournament – had not only given LSU a 3-1 lead to fire up the crowd, but it was the beginning of the end for Coastal Carolina junior ace Andrew Beckwith.
He wouldn’t make it out of the next inning while leaving with runners on second and third with one out in the fifth as the Tigers seemed primed to break the game open.
Holmes took over on the mound and got Kramer Robertson to ground to third, where Remillard was playing drawn-in and made a nice stop and throw home. That started a rundown that led to the second out.
After Holmes intentionally walked Deichmann, the bags were full with two outs and plenty of tension still remaining, but he got Bryce Jordan to pop out to Remillard in foul territory to escape it and before another out would be made in the game it was the Chants in the lead.
Senior Anthony Marks led off the top of the sixth with a walk, took second on a wild pitch and came home to score on an RBI single by junior Michael Paez. Owings then laced a double to deep right field, and Paez soon scored to tie it at 4-4 as Remillard flailed at a wild pitch for strike three while reaching first anyway when the ball scooted away from the catcher.
Young followed with a walk to load the bases and sophomore Seth Lancaster – who had the game-winning hit in the clinching game of the NCAA regionals earlier this week – swatted the first pitch he saw for an RBI single to right and a 5-4 Chants lead.
LSU ace Alex Lange, who had been cruising just a little while earlier, was done at that point as the Tigers started a revolving door of relief pitchers.
Sophomore Billy Cooke welcomed Parker Bugg with an RBI sac fly to deep center to make it 6-4 before the pivotal inning came to an end.
And in the seventh, well, the Chants made sure there would not be any more drama on this night.
After Marks reached on a bunt single, Owings followed two batters later with a two-run homer – his 16th – to right field and Remillard made it back-to-back homers with a line drive over the left field fence for his team-leading 19th.
Suddenly it was 9-4, and for a moment the stadium and its announced paid attendance of 11,516 was quiet enough for the one patch of teal down the third base line to let a “C-C-U” chant ring out into the night.
It’s a tough loss for us, but it’s a three-game series, or best two out of three. And if we were sitting here tonight, if we had won, I would tell you we haven’t got anything wrapped up and neither do they.
LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri
“These guys have been swinging it like this all year, man. It’s fun to watch it on a big stage and let everyone get to see it,” Morrison said.
More importantly, though, the Chants – who went 0-2 in each of their previous super regional appearances in 2008 and 2010 – have never been closer to their long-awaited first College World Series berth.
Lange (8-4) took the loss, giving up six runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out eight over five innings.
Holmes (5-2) ended up giving up one run on two hits and three walks in his 1 2/3 innings, but that stat line belied his contributions to the win.
Morrison then came on with runners on first and second and no outs in the seventh and worked out of that jam unscathed, and he wasn’t giving the ball up while finishing the game off for his 11th save of the season. He did allow three late runs (two earned) in gutting through the ninth, but the outcome never seemed threatened.
Remillard, who added a two-out RBI single in the eighth, finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Owings was 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs, Lancaster was 4-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI and Cooke added two RBIs.
Now the Chants just have to do it again Sunday.
“For me, I’m tired – it’s way past my bedtime,” Gilmore said after the 4 hour, 24-minute game. “We’ve got a long way to go to get another win here. That’s a very talented and proud team and I’m sure they’re going to come at us [Sunday] way harder than they even came at us today if that’s possible. I know we’ve got a lot in front of us to be able to accomplish that.”
Said LSU coach Paul Mainieri: “It’s a tough loss for us, but it’s a three-game series, or best two out of three. And if we were sitting here tonight, if we had won, I would tell you we haven’t got anything wrapped up and neither do they.”