MYRTLE BEACH — The assembled crowd of Coastal Carolina baseball players, coaches and supporters inside Handleys Pub and Grub in Carolina Forest on Monday let out a loud response when it was flashed on the ESPNU broadcast that the Chanticleers would be sent to Columbia for NCAA regional play. And then another boisterous reaction followed as it was revealed that the Chants would open that regional against Clemson.
Yes, the states three preeminent baseball programs will all be battling for one spot in the super regionals as they open NCAA tournament play Friday at Carolina Stadium.
Coastal (41-17), which is making its 11th NCAA regionals appearance in the last 12 years, is the No. 3 seed in the four-team double-elimination regional and takes on No. 2 Clemson (33-26) at noon Friday. Host South Carolina (40-17), the two-time defending national champion, opens with No. 4 Manhattan (33-25) at 4 p.m.
While the regional draw will no doubt excite baseball fans within the state, CCU coach Gary Gilmore was not so enthralled with the bracket.
I think for our state its kind of a knock a little bit that they put three teams from our own state in one regional where only ones going to have a chance to advance out of it, Gilmore said. Thats a little bit frustrating, but again, Im just glad to be in.
The Chants ensured their place by winning their sixth-straight Big South Conference tournament championship and securing the leagues automatic berth. Theyve won seven straight games overall and used that strong finish to reach the 40-win mark for the 12th time in the last 14 seasons.
I think were as ready as we can possibly be, senior first baseman Rich Witten said. Weve come a long way since the beginning of the season, and weve got a lot of kids with a lot of talent on the team and a lot of heart, and I think weve got a good shot going into the weekend.
The Chants defeated Clemson in the regular season, winning 10-7 on the road in April, but it was the Tigers who helped eliminate Coastal from regional play last season. And, of course, the Chants have recent history with the Gamecocks as well. Coastal played host to the super regionals in 2010 in Myrtle Beach as South Carolina took both games on the way to its first national championship.
Me and Rich were actually talking about that the other day, getting a rematch with them, senior catcher Tucker Frawley said. This was probably the only way were going to get it, but if we do get to play them that will be the second game and our ... focus is on Clemson right now.
That may be, but the Gamecocks are no doubt somewhere in the thoughts of at least several players.
Especially for the guys that were on that team, its a little more special being able to go there and get another shot at them, said senior right fielder Daniel Bowman, another holdover from the 2010 squad. I think everyones looking forward to it and excited about this opportunity.
Gilmore said the road for a program of Coastals size despite the reputation its developed over the last decade will always be tough in the NCAA tournament, and that means facing established powers like South Carolina and Clemson in regional play. He just doesnt necessarily like that only one of those three instate programs will get a shot to move on to the next round.
To me, its a frustrating piece of the puzzle, he said. Im not on the committee, so heck, Im surely not going to throw darts at those guys. Im sure its hard enough trying to figure out how to do it. Just seems a little bit strange, just glancing at it I couldnt say for fact I think were the only one that has 1-2-3 seeds out of a state all playing each other. I think thats a little frustrating. I think youd probably get that [opinion] from Clemson and South Carolina as well.
The Coastal Carolina athletic department expects to have a limited number of tickets available through its ticket office for Fridays game against Clemson. Those tickets will be made available to Chanticleer Athletic Fund members at 9 a.m. Tuesday; if any tickets remain, they will be made available to the general public at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Aside from CCUs opener, fans should go through the South Carolina ticket office as Coastal will be limited to an allotment of 200 tickets that will be used for players families and university personnel. And as CCU athletic director Hunter Yurachek noted, given the lack of tickets made available for South Carolina fans during the 2010 super regional here, he expects the Gamecocks to take a similar stance.
By NCAA guidelines, we receive 200 tickets as a school. We have to use those tickets to take care of, first of all, our student-athletes and their families, our coaches and staff and their families [and] our Board of Trustees. Ticket sales will be limited at best if we have any to sell once we get through those groups, Yurachek said. ... I think you guys will remember two years ago when South Carolina came here, we were very protective over the tickets for our fans, and obviously theyre going to be the same way with us coming there to Columbia.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.