MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Coastal Carolina's late rally forces Game 3

Chanticleers are one win away from first national title

Coastal Carolina's late rally forces Game 3

OMAHA, Neb. -- Four years ago, Anthony Marks, Mike Morrison and Connor Owings were walk-ons hoping to make Coastal Carolina's baseball team. Tuesday night, they brought the Chanticleers within one win of the school's first national title in any sport.

Morrison battled Arizona to a draw for 6 2/3 innings, while Marks drove in Coastal's first two runs and scored the go-ahead run on an eighth-inning single by Owings, the younger brother of D-backs center fielder Chris Owings. The Chanticleers won, 5-4, to force a decisive third game in the College World Series championship series.

Coastal Carolina (54-18) improved to 5-0 in elimination games in the NCAA tournament, a run that began when it erased a two-run deficit in the ninth inning of the Raleigh Regional title game against North Carolina State. The Chanticleers won three straight games after dropping into the loser's bracket in Omaha, then bounced back from a 3-0 loss to the Wildcats (49-23) on Monday.

"The resiliency of this team, it just comes from the combination of all the individuals who are doing stuff," Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. "It's not one guy. As much as Mike is on one end, Anthony Marks is that spark-plug guy on the other end … It's just been a combination of guys. They just keep believing that this is their destiny."

A 27th-round pick by the White Sox, Morrison leads the Chanticleers with 11 saves, but was called on to make the third start of his college career. After giving up 12 runs on eight hits in his two previous starts -- both as a junior in 2015 -- he set career highs for innings, pitches (103) and strikeouts (10, tying the CWS for a championship-series game). He recorded five whiffs on 87-91 mph fastballs and five on breaking balls, scattering six hits and two walks before retiring the final eight hitters he faced.

"I put my heart and soul into this program for four years, and to end it like that, that was special," Morrison said. "That standing ovation was probably the coolest thing that's ever going to happen in my entire life. Goodness, it was special."

While Morrison was battling on the mound, Marks set the tone for the Chanticleers offense all evening. The left fielder collected two of their five hits against Arizona junior right-hander Kevin Ginkel (22nd round, D-backs), who also tied the championship-series record with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. Marks reached base four times, reversing a 1-0 deficit with a two-run single in the third inning and hitting a leadoff single in the eighth to spark the winning three-run rally off sophomore lefty Cameron Ming, who had been nearly untouchable in his four previous CWS appearances.

"It's unbelievable to think where we came from four years ago," said Marks, who went undrafted as a senior. "We were sitting in the locker room wondering are we going to win one Big South tournament. And to see where we're at now is unbelievable."

Sophomore right-hander Bobby Holmes, who won both super-regional games at Louisiana State, earned the victory, but made things interesting. After Coastal Carolina scored three times in the top of the eighth, Holmes yielded a single and two walks to start the bottom half. He would have escaped allowing just one run, but shortstop Michael Paez's (fourth round, Mets) two-out error plated another that sliced the lead to one.

Holmes regrouped and retired hot-hitting second baseman Cody Ramer (19th round, Angels) on a flyout to end the threat, then retired the Wildcats in order in the ninth.

If Coastal Carolina prevails Wednesday, it will be the first team to win the College World Series in its Omaha debut since Minnesota in 1956. Seeking its fifth national title, Arizona can make Jay Johnson the first coach to win the CWS in his first season with his team. The Wildcats are 6-0 in elimination games during the NCAA playoffs.

Monday's game
Arizona 3, Coastal Carolina 0

Tuesday's game
Coastal Carolina 5, Arizona 4

Wednesday's game
Coastal Carolina at Arizona, 8 p.m. ET

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.