OMAHA, Neb. -- With the college baseball season down to one game and Coastal Carolina involved, it's a safe bet that if the Chanticleers forge an important rally Wednesday night in the championship game of the College World Series finals, Anthony Marks will fit smack in the middle of it.
"He's a human spark plug, man," second baseman Tyler Chadwick said after CCU evened the best-of-three series Tuesday night with a 5-4 win over Arizona at TD Ameritrade Park.
Marks, the bearded, arm-thrusting, undersized, cartoon-like senior left fielder, did it all from the leadoff spot. His one-out single in the third inning plated the Chanticleers' first two runs, and Marks ignited a three-run rally in the top of the eighth with his third hit.
This is just what he does.
Marks is hitting a team-best .393 (11-for-28) in Omaha with a .469 on-base percentage.
He sparked a ninth-inning rally to beat North Carolina State in regional play and another to win the super regional at LSU in walk-off style.
"We're not done yet," Marks said. "You want to bring home what you came here for."
His connection to CCU came through Jeff Rubinsak, Marks' summer-league coach who played for the Chanticleers' Gary Gilmore at South Carolina-Aiken in the early 1990s.
"I went to a camp after my senior year," Marks said, "and Coach Gilmore said he liked my speed. He said I would have a jersey and a chance to prove I could play at this level.
"He's given me countless opportunities that I can never repay him for. The stuff that he's done for me and the chances he's given me and believed in me, it really warms my heart for sure. I owe him a lot."
Marks' teammates recall meeting him four years ago. He wore basketball gear to a baseball workout.
"His swing was god-awful," Chadwick said. "But as soon as we started playing the game, he had the biggest chip on his shoulder that I've ever seen. He plays like I would expect of someone from Pittsburgh -- just blue-collar like he's fighting against the whole world."
Gilmore, in his 21st year at Coastal, said he often felt the need to save Marks from himself. He struggled with discipline, on and off the field.
"There were a lot of things that he went through," Gilmore said, "that he had to grow through. Ultimately, all that energy and passion that he was misdirecting at times, he learned to focus in his schoolwork and learned to focus."
Marks said he credits teammates Chadwick, Mike Morrison, Connor Owings and Zach Remillard for treating him like a little brother.
Before they exited the first-base dugout Tuesday night, Marks and Morrison, the CCU closer who threw 6 2/3 innings in his first start of the season, shared a hug and a few words.
"I've grown to love him like my brother," Morrison said. "The growing up he's done over four years in unbelievable."
Marks lives with pitcher Cole Schaefer, star shortstop Michael Paez and Andrew Beckwith, the Chanticleers' ace right-hander with a nation-leading 14 wins who's likely to start Game 3 against Arizona (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
They share the "Baseball House," an off-campus dwelling long occupied by Chanticleers -- where teammates shoot pool and form tight bonds.
On May 20, Marks, in his 545th collegiate at-bat, hit the first home run of his life -- college, high school or youth baseball -- in a home victory over Campbell. Chadwick described the dugout as "pandemonium" after the ball cleared the right-center field wall.
"Utter shock and joy and amusement," Chadwick said. "I fell over the railing because I jumped so high."
All these shared experiences led them to Wednesday night.
Coastal Carolina has defied elimination five times this month. In the past two wins, Marks collected six hits in eight at-bats. His 10 walks and .410 on-base percentage are the Chanticleers' top marks in the NCAA postseason.
So if he appears in a huge moment, with the national championship at stake, Marks figures to feel right at home. No matter how far he has progressed, he remains the 5-foot-7 kid from Pittsburgh with a chip on his shoulder.
"He's so much fun to play with," Chadwick said. "He wants to prove to the whole world that he's here and that he's a great player."
No better opportunity exists than this.
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