They might be viewed as an underdog, or a Cinderella team.
But, in the words of TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, "You don't win 53 games as a Cinderella. That's a team that's a legit national title contender."
After being doubted all season, all tournament, and throughout this College World Series, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are into the College World Series championship series, a best-of-three bout with the Arizona Wildcats. The Chanticleers reached this latest plateau by defeating the powerhouse TCU Horned Frogs for the second straight day, collecting a 7-5 victory that sent the Chanticleers to the finals in their first ever trip to Omaha.
The pair of victories tallied over TCU were particularly unlikely, given how the Horned Frogs had handled the Chanticleers with ease just four days previously, a 6-1 victory for TCU on June 21st. Since that loss, Coastal Carolina has staved off elimination with three straight victories. Like senior catcher David Parrett said: "We just weren't ready to say good-bye to each other yet."
Early Offense Sparks Coastal Carolina
Though their offense had been floundering before this three game winning streak, it was the early offense that sparked the Chanticleers. Coastal Carolina knocked around TCU starter Jared Janczak, forcing him out of the game after giving up three runs in three innings. Reliever Brian Trieglaff fared even worse against the Coastal offense, only recording two outs in the fourth inning while surrendering four runs, staking the Chanticleers to a 7-1 lead in the fourth inning, big enough for the Omaha newcomers to hold onto as TCU made a late push.
After leaving two men on base in the first inning, the Chanticleers got a boost from senior Tyler Chadwick, who finished a triple shy of the cycle. Chadwick picked up his home run in the second inning, driving an offering from Janczak over the fence in right-center field. It was the only tally the Chanticleers recorded in the second inning, but they would come back for two more runs in the third inning, with a little two-out magic. Anthony Marks had a single, sandwiched by two outs, but Connor Owings followed by another single, setting up a two-run triple from G.K. Young, expanding Coastal Carolina's lead to 3-0.
TCU tried to change their luck with a pitching change, but the move backfired as Coastal jumped all over Trieglaff. Chadwick started the rally with a single, advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt. This brought up Parrett, who had been hitting .130 after the loss against TCU, but was 3-8 with a couple of RBI in his ensuing games. The defensive-minded catcher game up big offensively, drilling a double to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Trieglaff got a strikeout, but it was the last out he would get. Marks and Zach Remillard knocked out RBI singles to give Coastal a 5-1 lead. TCU made another pitching change, but they could not contain the big inning, surrendering a 2 RBI double to Owings. It was all Coastal would get during the game, but it was enough to hold on for the victory.
Alex Cunningham Produces Solid Performance
Called upon to make the start in another elimination game for the Chanticleers, Alex Cunningham, the ace of this Coastal Carolina staff, responded with a very good outing. Though he got roughed up slightly in the seventh inning, it did not take away from Cunningham's performance. He faced the minimum through three innings, giving up just one single, but the runner was erased on a double play. He allowed one run in the fourth inning, courtesy of an RBI single off the bat of Elliott Barzilli. However, it was the only he run allowed in the first five innings. He allowed one other run in the sixth inning, but by that point, the game was essentially out of reach. Cunningham pitched into the seventh inning but could not finish the frame, giving up a single, double, and sacrifice fly to begin the inning. He would finish with a line of 6 1/3 innings, eight hits and four runs. He whiffed three batters while only walking one. Reliever Bobby Holmes finished the inning and the rest of the game for the Chanticleers.
TCU's Rally Falls Short
The Horned Frogs chipped away at the big Coastal Carolina lead throughout the game, but in the end, they simply ran out of outs, unable to come up with a big inning to tie the game. They got single runs in the fourth and sixth innings, and notched a pair of tallies in the seventh. Down by three runs, the Horned Frogs had the meat of their order up in the eighth inning but did not do anything, going down quietly and quickly at the hands of Holmes. The bottom of their order generated a run in the ninth off of a one-out double and subsequent RBI single. However, Holmes induced a quick double play with the tying run at the plate, ending the game.
TCU fell in the national semifinals for the second straight year, although this time is even more painful as they had two opportunities to advance but couldn't capitalize. They lost to Vanderbilt at this stage last year, but dropped just one game that time.
Coastal Carolina advances to the finals for an opportunity at their first ever title. They will play Arizona, with the series starting on Monday.