The storyline seems too much like fate or destiny or something of that ilk for any other decision to be made.
After he pitched a pair of one-run complete-games already here in the College World Series, Coastal Carolina fans are certainly clamoring to see junior ace Andrew Beckwith one more time with the Chanticleers playing for the national championship Wednesday night in the finale of a best-of-three finals series with Arizona.
Not surprisingly, though, the coaches and even Beckwith himself weren’t tipping their hand after the Chants’ momentous 5-4 win Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park to even the series with the Wildcats and force this decisive third game.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ve got a rabbit in my hat and I’ll pull it out tomorrow and let you know which direction we’re going,” head coach Gary Gilmore said after the game.
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Said pitching coach Drew Thomas: “We’ll see. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and kind of go from there. We talked about it, it’s just kind of, how long can he last? Is it worth starting him, is it worth trying somebody first and then going to him? It’s kind of one of those double-edged swords.”
Beckwith leads the NCAA in wins and broke the program’s single-season record in that category while improving to 14-1 with a 1.94 ERA following his back-to-back complete-game efforts here, against Florida and TCU. He is one of just four pitchers in the last 25 years to throw two complete games in the College World Series.
I would love to have it and I’d be honored, but we have to do what’s right for the team and whoever can go will go. Coach Thomas is the best pitching coach in the country, and whatever him and Coach Gilmore decide, I’m sure will be the right option.
CCU ace Andrew Beckwith
He threw 138 pitches Friday night against the Horned Frogs, though, and with just four full days of rest that is no doubt a consideration for Gilmore and Thomas.
But for the Chants’ storybook season to come down to one final game and Beckwith not to be playing a leading role seems hard to imagine.
“I would love to have it and I’d be honored, but we have to do what’s right for the team and whoever can go will go,” Beckwith said. “Coach Thomas is the best pitching coach in the country, and whatever him and Coach Gilmore decide, I’m sure will be the right option.”
The coaches had Beckwith down in the bullpen heading into the ninth inning Tuesday night with Coastal Carolina (54-18) protecting a one-run lead in the potential elimination game with Arizona (49-23), but sophomore reliever Bobby Holmes finished it off with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to keep the tension to a minimum.
“I didn’t want to do it. [Coach Thomas], we kept talking about it every single pitch, and I’m going, ‘I don’t want to do it.’ He’s going, ‘I don’t want to do it either. What are we going to do?’” Gilmore said. “Honestly, we don’t have anybody. We didn’t have anybody else that has been in a game in forever that you could put in that situation. So I said, ‘Somehow we’ve got to rock Bobby out.’ ...
“[Beckwith] stretched and stretched, and I knew Drew called down there two or three times to make sure that basically [if it meant] the season was going to be completely over, would he come in and face one or whatever? But I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think I would have let it happen. We went into this knowing that the two guys that threw tonight, they had to get it done for us. And they did.”
Asked what he has left in his arm at this point, Beckwith said he would leave that up to strength and conditioning coach Nick White and associate athletic trainer Barry Lippman.
“We’ll see tomorrow, but Coach White and Barry Lippman are going to try to get me right, so we’ll see,” Beckwith said.
If Gilmore truly hadn’t made up his mind about his pitching decision for the biggest game of his career, he had Tuesday night to sleep on it and expected to make the most of that opportunity while not being kept awake by the enormity of the situation and the opportunity that awaits his ballclub on Wednesday evening.
“I’ll sleep good, I’m going to tell you that right now. I’m exhausted. Man alive, I’m going to be about 97 years old when this thing’s over with as much stress as I’ve been under,” he said.
Coastal Carolina is playing for the national championship. No matter how many times that is said, it still seems surreal.
I think it was something that was discussed, but something that was certainly not actually realistic at the time. We were trying to host a regional and get a Big South title under our belt for the first time for this team in four years. That feels like two years ago at this point. It’s been an incredible ride. Whether or not it goes our way [Wednesday night], this will be something we never forget, but hopefully it does go our way and it [would] be incredibly special for this group of guys and Coach Gilmore.
CCU relief pitcher Bobby Holmes
The Chants are the first team since Georgia Tech in 1994 to reach the finals in their first College World Series appearance, and are now looking to become the first team since Minnesota in 1956 – 60 years – to win the championship in their CWS debut.
Quite simply, they are on the verge of completing one of the greatest stories in college baseball history.
But that’s exactly what Gilmore does not want his players thinking about heading into this finale Wednesday night.
“If you can keep it as a game and not make it out to be the Super Bowl, I think you’ll have a lot better chance of just relaxing and playing,” Gilmore said. “It is one game and heck, somebody’s going to win it and somebody’s going to lose it. There’s two great teams going at it, so we’ll just have to see how it works out.”
It is one game – the biggest one in school history, and an opportunity nobody could have realistically envisioned for this program in advance.
“I think it was something that was discussed, but something that was certainly not actually realistic at the time,” Holmes said of whether this was even a thought at the start of the season. “We were trying to host a regional and get a Big South title under our belt for the first time for this team in four years. That feels like two years ago at this point. It’s been an incredible ride. Whether or not it goes our way [Wednesday night], this will be something we never forget, but hopefully it does go our way and it [would] be incredibly special for this group of guys and Coach Gilmore.”
Said junior designated hitter G.K. Young: “It’s a childhood dream and I’m as excited as I’ve ever been in my whole life.”
That goes for he and everybody else associated with Coastal Carolina, from the former players who helped set the foundation for the program, to the long-time fans and the bandwagon contingent that has been inspired by this magical postseason run.
As senior right fielder Connor Owings said: “You can’t write it better than it is right now.”
College World Series Finals
Who | Coastal Carolina vs. Arizona
What | Finale of best-of-three championship series
Where | TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
When | 1 p.m. ET
TV | ESPNU
Radio | WSEA-FM 100.3