That Arizona and Coastal Carolina will take the field on Monday night for Game 1 of the College World Series Finals is a historically historically unlikely occurrence. How unlikely? Let's tick through some stats:
Arizona is the first team since 2008 to begin its season unranked and end it in the national championship series, according to Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball. The Wildcats came into 2016 having lost the two best players on its team — All-American middle infielders Kevin Newman and Scott Kingery — prompting the Pac-12 coaches to pick them to finish ninth in the conference. They ended up placing third, though even that was a relatively unimpressive feat during a year that the Pac-12 was historically mediocre. Coastal, by the way, barely squeaked into D1Baseball's preseason poll at No. 24.
It's the first time since 1992 that a pair of non-No. 1 regional seeds played for the national title. Arizona and Coastal both began this tournament as No. 2 seeds in someone else's regional and had to fight through the first two rounds on the road. Arizona fought its way out of the losers bracket of the Lafayette Regional, scoring back to back wins over host Louisiana-Lafayette. Coastal took down NC State in Raleigh, scoring four runs in the ninth inning to come from behind in the Game 7 rubber match. Both clubs then pulled off unlikely road sweeps against SEC national seeds in the supers: Coastal scored a walk-off single in rowdy Alex Box Stadium to advance past LSU, while Arizona stunned 14,000 fans in Starkville with a walk-off win over Mississippi State.
It's the first time since 1988 that both CWS finalists have come out of the Omaha losers bracket. Both clubs made declarative opening statements by beating the top two seeds in Omaha — Coastal snuck by No. 1 Florida and Arizona knocked off No. 3 Miami — before losing their second games. The Wildcats survived an elimination game against UC Santa Barbara, then won back to back games over an Arizona club that hadn't trailed at any point during its first seven NCAA Tourney games. Coastal shook off national seed Texas Tech in the losers bracket, then came back up to score consecutive wins over TCU and its deep pitching rotation.
How to watch Game 1 on Monday
First pitch: 7 p.m. ET
Online streaming: WatchESPN