Backed to the edge of elimination with its heels hanging over the abyss of the season's end, Coastal Carolina needed something special on Tuesday night in Game 2 of the College World Series Finals. What it got was a legendary performance from Mike Morrison: a seven-plus inning, 103-pitch start from the Chanticleers' star closer to push the national championship series to a decisive third game on Wednesday.
"When [pitching coach Drew Thomas] came out and got me, I put my heart and soul into this program for four years, and to end it like that, that was special," Morrison said of the emotional moment in the eighth inning when he handed the ball off to close friend Bobby Holmes. "That standing ovation was probably the coolest thing that's ever going to happen in my entire life. Goodness, it was special. That will definitely be the pinnacle of my career, I'd say."
Coastal broke through for three runs in the next frame and Holmes was able to fend off an Arizona rally to preserve a 5-4 win. Nearly as significant, Holmes was able to keep Andrew Beckwith (who was stretching in the bullpen during the ninth inning) from having to take the mound as an emergency reliever. As a result, Coastal will have its ace starter on the mound in Game 3.
Beckwith, who will be throwing on four days rest, has allowed just two combined runs during a pair of complete games in Omaha, including an opening-game gem against No. 1 overall seed Florida. He's 14-1 this season with a sparkling 1.94 ERA.
"We got the dude on the mound tomorrow," said a smiling Morrison during his postgame interview.
The status of Arizona ace Nathan Bannister -- who left last Friday's game against Oklahoma State with tightness in his forearm, after toting a controversially heavy workload through the first three weeks of the tournament -- is less clear. Wildcats head coach Jay Johnson said Tuesday night that Bannister, No. 2 starter Bobby Dalbec and star reliever Cameron Ming will be available for Game 3, but didn't specify how long Bannister will pitch or if he'll start. Dalbec, who threw 102 pitches during a seven-inning start last Saturday, will be limited. Ming threw 79 pitches during a five-inning relief stint the previous day and threw 16 pitches during Arizona's ugly eighth inning against Coastal on Tuesday.
How to watch Game 3
First pitch: 8 p.m. ET, Thursday, June 30
Online streaming: WatchESPN