After waiting through about two and half hours of weather delays Wednesday night, Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore and Arizona coach Jay Johnson both agreed with the decision to postpone their College World Series championship finale until Thursday afternoon.
The Chanticleers and Wildcats are now scheduled to play the decisive game of their best-of-three series at 1:08 ET at TD Ameritrade Park with the national championship at stake.
The game will be televised on ESPNU, rather than ESPN.
“I think it was a great decision after the amount of delay we had and the length of time it would have taken to get everybody ready and the teams ready to go,” Gilmore said. “You don’t want to play a national championship game and finish at 3 o’clock in the morning, and you’ve got a chance of rain on the back end of it as well. So I’m very pleased that they made this decision the way it played out.”
Said Johnson: “I think it helps both teams, and I think that’s probably what’s best for both staffs and all guys throwing. We’ll go back and look at it tonight and figure out if what we set out to do is still the best thing.”
As will the Chants.
Coastal Carolina (54-18) had announced junior right-hander Alex Cunningham (10-4, 3.64 earned-run average) as its starting pitcher with plans to bring ace Andrew Beckwith (14-1, 1.94) out of the bullpen.
I think it was a great decision after the amount of delay we had and the length of time it would have taken to get everybody ready and the teams ready to go. You don’t want to play a national championship game and finish at 3 o’clock in the morning, and you’ve got a chance of rain on the back end of it as well. So I’m very pleased that they made this decision the way it played out.
CCU coach Gary Gilmore
Cunningham would have been pitching on just three full days rest after throwing 6 1/3 innings and 88 pitches on Saturday night in a 7-5 win over TCU to advance to this stage of the bracket, while Beckwith would have had four days rest after an epic 138-pitch effort Friday night against TCU in throwing his second one-run complete-game of the College World Series.
“If we had played it tonight I was hoping to get at least three [innings] out of AC and then go with Beckwith,” Gilmore said. “The whole reason we basically we’re looking at doing that was AC has never really been a closer, never been a bullpen guy. [He’s used to] warm-up routines and coming in the game where he creates his own mess, where as a bullpen guy you may come in trying to get out of someone else’s mess and he just hasn’t had that opportunity. And we just felt like it would be better – if he got in trouble, we could go to [Beckwith]. He’s used to that type of insertion into a game with guys all over the place.”
With an extra day of rest, though, that could be reconsidered.
“We’ll see. I obviously hadn’t made that determination at this point, but we’ll see,” Gilmore said.
Arizona, meanwhile, was set to throw junior righty Bobby Dalbec (11-5, 2.65), who held Oklahoma State to one run on four hits and two walks in a 5-1 win on Saturday to advance the Wildcats to this championship series.
“We’ll look at it,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said he wasn’t surprised to see the Chants opt to start with Cunningham over Beckwith had the game been played Wednesday night.
Gilmore had publicly expressed after the first game of the series Monday night that he was frustrated that Arizona held out until just before the lineups were due to announce its starting pitcher, and in turn Coastal Carolina waited until just before lineups were due Wednesday evening to officially announce its starting pitcher.
“Not really. We prepared for everybody. That’s how it goes this time of year,” Johnson said of any surprises. “Both of them are good pitchers. We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to see them both throw twice here in Omaha and that’s a good thing.”
But after a day full of anticipation and buildup as two unlikely underdogs – for different reasons – awaited their national championship clash, it was Mother Nature who won this round.
I think it helps both teams, and I think that’s probably what’s best for both staffs and all guys throwing. We’ll go back and look at it tonight and figure out if what we set out to do is still the best thing.
Arizona coach Jay Johnson
There was some rain during the delay as the tarp was put on the field, but it was lightning strikes in the area that further stalled everything as the teams are required to wait a half hour after each strike within eight miles of the ballpark.
“It helps them, it helps us. Both teams should be pretty much, pitching-wise, closer to full strength and we’ll see what happens,” Gilmore said.
That probably serves the series well in general after both Coastal Carolina and Arizona battled back through the loser brackets on their respective sides of the eight-team competition to reach this stage before splitting their first two games in the best-of-three series.
Coastal Carolina has been a popular underdog story among fans here as it is making the program’s first-ever College World Series appearance and looking to become the first team since Minnesota in 1956 to win the whole thing in its debut.
Arizona, meanwhile, is in its first year under Johnson after missing the NCAA postseason entirely the last three years. The Wildcats have four national championships in program history, though, with the most recent coming in 2012.
Either way, there is a feel-good story to be had for the winner.
For now, though, everybody waits.
As for the Chants, who have had a looseness about them throughout this postseason run, Gilmore said that didn’t change as they waited for a decision Wednesday night.
“They’re in there playing different kinds of games and doing stuff and just being kids,” he said. “There’s too much ADD going on in there, it would take some extra medicine to keep them in a chair or whatever. So no, they were having fun. You can’t sit there for three hours and not do something.”