In the midst of the postgame celebration Thursday, as officials were about to announce the recipient of the College World Series’ Most Outstanding Player award, Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore said quietly to himself that it better be Andrew Beckwith.
It was – and it couldn’t have been a difficult decision.
Beckwith, the side-arming junior right-hander, was the stuff of legend in Omaha, Neb., while earning three wins for the Chanticleers with a pair of one-run complete games and then 5 2/3 terrific innings Thursday as they defeated Arizona, 4-3, to claim the national championship.
“Unreal. It just wasn’t expected at all,” Beckwith would say on the field afterward. “I expected [us] to go to Omaha, win a couple a games. Of course we wanted to, but we never thought ever that we’d bring home a national championship to Conway and to South Carolina.”
It wouldn’t have happened without the Chants’ steely ace turning in one of the truly great pitching performances in College World Series history.
When the story of this national championship run is retold years and decades from now, it will start with coach Gary Gilmore’s vision and perseverance in building the program to this point … and then it will follow with Beckwith and the starring role he played under college baseball’s brightest spotlight.
He had set the tone for Coastal Carolina, pitching a one-run complete game in a 2-1 win over top-seeded Florida to open the bracket and make a statement to everyone that the Chants weren’t just satisfied to be on this stage.
He later reiterated that point again in equally emphatic fashion with another one-run complete game in a 4-1 win over TCU, throwing 138 pitches to keep the Chants alive in the losers bracket and set up a final rematch with the Horned Frogs with the winner advancing to the finals.
And fittingly, in the finale of that best-of-three championship series, he got the ball once more and delivered five scoreless innings before allowing two unearned runs in the sixth with the Chants in control by that point.
“He and [fellow pitchers Mike] Morrison and [Alex Cunningham] and [Bobby] Holmes and those guys just basically put us on their back, and he was the ring leader of that in this tournament,” Gilmore said after that clinching win. “He’s been unbelievable. He’s a fantastic competitor.”
And a Coastal Carolina legend at this point.
Beckwith finished the College World Series having pitched 23 2/3 innings while giving up just two earned runs on 19 hits and four walks with 14 strikeouts.
That equates to a 0.76 earned-run average – which ties for the fifth-best in CWS history among pitchers with at least 18 innings – while he is the 12th player to ever notch three wins during the season’s final stage in Omaha.
He finishes the season with a 15-1 record – the most wins in NCAA Division I since 2010 and two more than the previous single-season program record – and a 1.85 ERA over 117 innings.
Furthermore, his 2.17 career ERA through three seasons now is another record for the Chants’ Division I era.
“With our story and what he’s done, he’s on a level that we haven’t been on in this program,” pitching coach Drew Thomas had said last week before even that championship game performance.
Senior left fielder Anthony Marks had weighed in as well after that second complete-game as Beckwith was becoming a bonafide star before a national audience.
“It’s pretty amazing, but honestly you guys are just seeing this this past week, but we’ve been watching him do this for three years now,” Marks said. “His numbers speak for themself. He’s, if not the best pitcher in the country, one of the best pitchers in the country. …
“This man does this night in and night out every time he gets the rock, whether he’s a starter or whether he’s coming out of the bullpen. It’s really fun to watch and he’s going to do big things, he really is.”
After what he did in Omaha, nothing would really be a surprise.
But regardless of where Beckwith’s baseball career goes from this point, he’ll forever be remembered for his leading role in the greatest achievement in school history.
And it doesn’t get a whole lot bigger than that.