In the postgame media session Tuesday night, Coastal Carolina pitcher Mike Morrison got to talking about fellow senior Anthony Marks and he couldn’t help but share the story of the first time he met the future top-of-the-order catalyst, when the two had first arrived on campus to start working out with the team as freshmen.
“I think he was wearing a basketball jersey and ‘jorts’ hitting off a tee in our hitting facility. I didn’t know what the heck to think about the kid and I’ve grown in four years to love him like my brother,” Morrison said.
For those who have followed the Chanticleers on their incredible path to this point – now one win away from a national championship as they play Arizona in a winner-take-all finale Wednesday night at TD Ameritrade Park – Marks has become a fan favorite for his unrelenting energy and the spark he has so often provided in big moments for this team.
The Coastal Carolina players and coaches have an extra layer of appreciation for the senior, though, having watched his maturation and growth in four years with the program.
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After my sophomore year when I came in there and started playing some good baseball and knowing that I could play here, I was like, ‘Well I can play here, so now I need to act the part. ... I need to act the right way and get myself together if I want stay here and keep playing here.’ Once I proved to myself that I could do it on the field with my ability, I had to make sure that off the field I was doing the same thing so I could keep getting that opportunity.
CCU left fielder Anthony Marks
“We do school work together, and the stuff he’s done in the classroom he’s really picked it up. I think he was one of our highest GPA guys this semester, and the growing up he’s done over four years is unbelievable,” Morrison continued. “If you guys knew him, to see where he’s at today from four years ago when he walked in this place, it’s very, very special. And he’s going to dominate whatever he does in his life the rest of the way.”
Marks was the offensive star for the Chants in their 5-4 win over Arizona on Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park, going 3-for-4 with a two-run single in the second inning and a leadoff single and go-ahead run in the pivotal eighth.
Just as he did in drawing a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth at LSU and then scoring the go-ahead run in the team’s NCAA super regional clincher, Marks led off the eighth against Arizona with a single up the middle, took second on a sacrifice bunt and came around to score on a single by Connor Owings to break what was a 2-2 tie at the time. That sparked a three-run inning as the Chants got just enough offensive support to stave off elimination in the College World Series.
For the season, Marks is batting .290 with a .408 on-base percentage, 56 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. Through seven College World Series games, though, he’s batting a team-best .393 with 11 hits, four runs scored and four RBIs.
“To be up here and competing for a national championship [Wednesday night] it just puts the icing on the cake,” he said. “It’s unbelievable to think where we came four years ago sitting in the locker room for four years like, ‘Are we going to win a Big South championship one time or what? Can we do that?’ And to see where we’re at now is unbelievable.”
Again, though, the same goes for his own personal arc – and he’ll readily admit that.
If you guys knew him, to see where he’s at today from four years ago when he walked in this place, it’s very, very special. And he’s going to dominate whatever he does in his life the rest of the way.
CCU closer Mike Morrison, on teammate Anthony Marks
“I don’t want to say like a little rebel, but [I was] almost a rebel. I had a little back talk to me. I really didn’t think I was ever wrong. You see that sometimes, I can chirp at an umpire once or twice. I mean, that’s another place I’ve come a [long way] from,” Marks said. “Coach [Gary] Gilmore, Coach [Drew] Thomas and Coach [Matt] Schilling and Coach [Chris] Carter being here, really helping me out and just making me mature as a man and growing. My mom said the same thing, she said, ‘Ant, if you could see where you’ve come from in four years, it’s really unbelievable.’”
Gilmore has his own perspective on that as well.
“He’s that kid that you’re out there trying to kind of save him from himself, so to speak,” Gilmore said. “Anthony had a big heart when he came, but he also was not very disciplined in some different areas and things and he’s learned and grown in his personal self-discipline. He was not the easiest guy to coach for a while, and there were a lot of things that we went through that he had to grow through. And Mike Morrison and Owings and [Zach] Remillard and some of those guys taking him under their wing made a real huge difference and impact in his life. Ultimately all that energy and passion he was misdirecting at times, he learned to focus into school work and learn to focus in stuff in our community and obviously on the field.”
As for that baseball aspect, Marks shared his own reflection from those early moments his freshman year as he got acclimated and met his new teammates – the ones who would form a brotherhood, as they have put it, while leading the way to the best season in program history.
“I saw Remillard and I was like, ‘How you doing man, what’s your name?’ And he was like, ‘I’m Zach, I’m trying to start at third.’ I was like, ‘You’re trying to start?! I’m trying to make the team,’” Marks recalled, eliciting laughter from the room.
He would indeed make the team and get his break late in his sophomore year, and he’s been a mainstay in the Chants’ lineup since then.
While, again, learning a few lessons along the way and growing as much as a person as he has a player, according to those that know him best.
As for Morrison’s visual recount of their first meeting, Marks said it rang familiar and that the relief pitcher treated him “like his kid almost” in looking after him, keeping his focus on the right things and helping him flourish during his time at Coastal Carolina.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Marks said.
As he tells his own story, he recalls that breakthrough on the field late in the 2014 season as the pivotal moment for him in so many ways.
“After my sophomore year when I came in there and started playing some good baseball and knowing that I could play here, I was like, ‘Well I can play here, so now I need to act the part. ... I need to act the right way and get myself together if I want stay here and keep playing here,’” he said. “Once I proved to myself that I could do it on the field with my ability, I had to make sure that off the field I was doing the same thing so I could keep getting that opportunity.”
And now look at him.