Saturday, February 24, 2018
Colleges

Coastal Carolina wins College World Series; Tod Leiweke honored

OMAHA, Neb. — Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore often said he just wanted his team to reach the College World Series.

Until this week, he never imagined the Chanticleers would do so much more: They're heading back to Conway, S.C., with the school's first national championship in any sport.

The Chanticleers beat Arizona 4-3 in the deciding Game 3 of the College World Series finals Thursday, capitalizing on two errors on the same play to score four unearned runs in the sixth of a game delayed a day by bad weather.

"Whenever I die, I'll know this group of guys here, they willed themselves to be the national champion," Gilmore said. "If there is such a thing as a team of destiny, this group is it."

Coastal Carolina (55-18) became the first team since Minnesota in 1956 to win the title in its first CWS appearance. Arizona (49-24) fell behind when second baseman Cody Ramer couldn't get a handle on a grounder, allowing David Parrett to score from third. Then Ramer tried to get Michael Paez running from second to third, but his overthrow allowed Paez to score.

Andrew Beckwith (15-1), the national leader in wins, went 52/3 innings after pitching two complete games and picked up his third victory of the CWS — starting with beating No. 1 overall seed Florida in the opener. He was named the Most Outstanding Player.

"It was a full team effort the whole College World Series, and we got it done," Beckwith said.

Alex Cunningham earned his first save. "The running joke is that in high school I lost the state championship three times in a row. I was not going to lose this one, I promise you that," Cunningham said.

The championship was the first in a team sport in the 33-year history of the Big South Conference. The Big South could savor the title for only about eight hours. The Chanticleers become members of the Sun Belt today.

"This program has been a lot better than people give it credit for," Gilmore said. "They thought we played in a small conference and couldn't get this done. This bunch wanted to prove everybody wrong."

Leiweke honored

TAMPA — When the National Football Foundation's Leadership Hall of Fame inducts its newest member in January, it'll be a familiar name for Tampa sports: Tod Leiweke, who left his job as Lightning CEO last year to become chief operating officer of the NFL.

"He helped elevated the culture of the Tampa Bay Lightning," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said of the 56-year-old, who spent five years with the Lightning, which has now been to back-to-back Stanley Cup finals. "Obviously it's Jeff Vinik's resources, but it was Tod Leiweke's enthusiasm that helped to change that culture and allowed the Lightning on the ice to believe in themselves, but more importantly allowed this community to believe in the Lightning once again."

The induction Jan. 5 will coincide with Tampa hosting college football's national championship game Jan. 9 at Raymond James Stadium. Leiweke is best known locally for his hockey ties, but he worked with the Seahawks before coming to Tampa, and is back in football in a position previously held by current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The championship game will put a national spotlight on Tampa, for all the same reasons Leiweke is being honored, said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.

"With the social impact, economic and exposure, when you look at this honoree Tod Leiweke and what he did here in his time here in our community, he checks all three of those boxes," Higgins said.

BASKETBALL: Arizona's top incoming recruit, forward Terrance Ferguson, will play professionally in Australia instead of in college.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

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