CONWAY — As the Coastal Carolina baseball team readied for the start of full-squad fall practices this week, coach Gary Gilmore joked that his first order of business had nothing to do with hitting, pitching or defense.
“I’ve just got to learn everybody’s name first,” he said. “There’s way too many new bodies.”
For the second straight season, the Chanticleers will be counting on an influx of newcomers to fill key holes in the lineup, on the diamond and throughout the pitching staff, and Gilmore said for all the talk about how young the team was last season while going 42-19 and reaching the NCAA regionals yet again, well, this group might just be even younger.
“It’s a lot of optimism, but a lot of question marks,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a little bit of ability; it’s another to be able to develop it and repetitively produce positive outcomes. So we’re just going to have to wait and see.”
Gilmore expects significant competition throughout the infield and he and his staff will pay especially close attention to the developments at catcher and third base. Will Remillard, a third-year sophomore who redshirted last season after transferring from Temple, is the favorite to take over catching duties while his brother Zach Remillard is the prize of the team’s incoming recruiting class and has a good shot to open the season as the Chants’ starting third baseman.
Overall, Gilmore hopes to have more depth among his position players this year and have the ability to play 14 or 15 “interchangeable” guys as opposed to the 10-12 he relied on the last couple seasons.
On the pitcher’s mound, junior right-hander Tyler Herb (9-2, 2.61 ERA last year) and sophomore lefty Ben Smith (2-2, 3.16) look poised to anchor the front of the rotation while sophomore Patrick Corbett, redshirt-freshman Tyler Poole and true freshman Alex Cunningham are among the pitchers competing for the other starting roles.
Poole, a 38th-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2011, missed all of last season with knee injuries, but Gilmore said he finally looks healthy enough to realize some of his potential. A former two-sport prospect, the 6-foot-6 righty has left the Coastal basketball program to focus solely on baseball at the advisement of his doctors and could be an impact addition on the mound next season if that surgically-repaired left knee remains sound.
“He’s completely healthy,” Gilmore said. “He stayed here all summer. We did some running tests a while back, and that kid ran better than two-thirds of our positional guys. I wasn’t there that day. I texted him and said, ‘You’re going to have to start hitting, and you can hit leadoff.’ I didn’t realize he could run like that.”
The news wasn’t so positive for another top pitching prospect as Joe Perricone – a 40th-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 who missed all of last season with arm troubles – underwent Tommy John surgery in August and has opted to head back home to Illinois for now to attend a junior college.
“Our agreement was he would come back here next summer and come back to school and stuff,” Gilmore said. “He ultimately had to have Tommy John. After all we went through, they finally just said, ‘Let’s do it.’ He went down there to [Dr. James] Andrews a second time, they did a second MRI and finally found the tear. It was about the third [test] that boy had had. It just goes to show you, as great as technology is, as great as the doctors are, that’s an injury that man, it’s just hard to identify it all the time and be exactly right.”
Otherwise, though, everybody that Gilmore was expecting to be on campus has made it this fall and there are no other serious injuries to worry about at this point. It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together now. The first official fall practice was Wednesday, and they’ll see if they can get some of those questions answered over the next few weeks.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” junior outfielder Jacob May said. “We’re all positive, and everyone’s here to get better.”
Women’s golf tees off
The Coastal women’s golf team opened its season last weekend by placing fifth out of 15 teams at the Dale McNamara Invitational in Broken Arrow, Okla., after a strong final round vaulted the Chanticleers up the leaderboard.
The Chants shot a collective 290 during the third round while finishing 22-over (293-303-290) for the 54-hole tournament, which was won by Arizona State at 2-over.
“I was really excited about just the overall finish and really about how they bounced back after the second round,” coach Katie Quinney said. “They showed a lot of courage and determination to finish strong and have one of the best rounds of the day, so that was cool.”
Senior Brittany Henderson led Coastal with a 1-over 217 (74-72-71) to place ninth out of 75 individuals for an encouraging start to her final collegiate season.
Perhaps most encouraging for the Chants, though, was the play of two newcomers who will be counted on for key contributions this season. Freshman Marissa Hinchman finished 23rd overall (76-74-72 - 222) and freshman Lena Schaeffner, a native of Germany, tied for 35th after a strong finish (76-79-73 - 228).
“Hopefully they got a lot to work towards, a lot of confidence from this experience,” Quinney said.
On the schedule
The Coastal men’s soccer team starts a four-game homestand Saturday night against UNC Greensboro before hosting College of Charleston next Tuesday. ... The women’s soccer team opens Big South Conference play on the road Thursday at Winthrop and Saturday at Gardner-Webb. ... The volleyball team makes its home debut at The HTC Center with matches Friday against Winthrop and Saturday against Presbyterian. ... Men’s golf is in Skokie, Ill., Sunday and Monday for its second tournament of the fall. ... And the men’s tennis team is on the road this weekend at the Elon Fall Invitational.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.