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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona vs. Coastal Carolina: Time, TV, and Preview

Emily Gauci
Arizona left-handed pitcher JC Cloney pitches the ball during Arizona’s 6-1 victory over UCLA on Thursday, March 24 at Hi-Corbett Field. Cloney picthed a complete game, allowing just one run in nine innnigs of work.

Coastal Carolina baseball head coach Gary Gilmore has good reason to envy Arizona head coach Jay Johnson, even if Gilmore didn’t show it when the two coaches spoke Sunday at the College World Series Finals press conference.

In his first 20 years coaching the Chanticleers, Gilmore never once sniffed the humid, stuffy air of Omaha, Nebraska in mid-June.

There were nights where Gilmore would lay awake in bed, wondering if he’d ever take his alma-mater to its first College World Series.

Johnson, on the other hand, arrived in Omaha in near-record time.

Arizona’s first-year head coach relied on an experienced assistant staff and a peaking senior class to take the program to its second trip to TD Ameritrade Park in four years.

“Obviously [Johnson’s] a whole lot smarter than I am because he got here faster than I did,” Gilmore joked.

Starting Monday, the Chanticleers and Wildcats face off in a best-of-three championship series that features one of college baseball’s winningest active coaches versus one of its brightest young managers.

Johnson and Gilmore got their teams this far by implementing a similar small-ball approach that emphasizes aggressive play and what Johnson calls a pitch-by-pitch mentality.

“I’m very proud to say, when I look at their team, just initially, I see a lot of characteristics I see in our team” Johnson said.

Coastal Carolina and Arizona both like to advance runners by way of the bunt. The Wildcats ranked third nationally in sacrifice bunts; the Chanticleers ranked eighth.

Both groups are also sound defensively.

Arizona has committed just one error over five games while the Chanticleers have committed two.

“If I compare us to what I think we are, I think we’re a Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay type style,” Gilmore said.” Athleticism, some power — this team just happens to have matured into power — and defense, base running, pitching, those types of things.”

Power may be the one area where Coastal Carolina has — or at least had — a decisive advantage over Arizona.

Four Chanticleers enter the Finals with 15 or more home runs, including a team-leading 19 jacks by senior clean-up batter Zach Remillard.

However, Coastal Carolina has been held to just one homer at TD Ameritrade Park, where the deep outfield plays to the pitcher’s advantage.

“We’ve been an offense all season that’s been able to drive the baseball but we’ve also been able to get down our sac bunts and steal some bags,” Remillard said. “Regardless of the ballpark, we’re just going to tailor our game.”

Connor Owings, the younger brother of Arizona Diamondbacks player Chris Owings, leads the Chanticleers with a .364 batting average, but the right fielder has been mostly silent in Omaha, batting .167.

Neither head coach wanted to announce a starting pitcher for Monday night, but there’s a good chance Arizona goes with JC Cloney given Johnson’s pitching strategy thus far.

Cloney, who was Arizona’s Saturday starter for most of the season, last pitched Wednesday, tossing seven innings of scoreless ball against UC-Santa Barbara.

That would give him four full days rest to work with.

Cameron Ming and Kevin Ginkel — Arizona’s most reliable relievers this postseason — saw action against Oklahoma State, putting them on short rest.

Nathan Bannister has not been ruled out for the championship series, either, but Johnson indicated that he did not want to push the senior right-hander after Bannister left Friday’s game against Oklahoma State with tightness in his pitching arm.

“There was no way we were going to let him continue in that game,” Johnson said. “Probably the most encouraging sign was [Saturday when] he said he felt like he normally did after he started a game, which was good.”

Johnson said Bannister’s progress will be evaluated each day of the series.

Coastal Carolina’s Gilmore acknowledged his team has burnt through much of its bullpen on its road to the Finals and expected to make a decision on Monday’s starting pitcher by late Sunday.

The first game of the championship series is scheduled for a 4 p.m. MST opening pitch. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Arizona is looking for its fifth national title, which would tie the program with ASU for fourth-most all time.

Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter

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