CONWAY — Coastal Carolina released its 2013 baseball schedule Friday afternoon, revealing a slate of 35 home games and the usual collection of marquee matchups with teams from the ACC and other premier conferences.
There is one major difference this season, though.
The Chanticleers’ home games will be played at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark in Myrtle Beach due to construction on Coastal’s new $10.2 million baseball and softball complex that will replace the team’s former on-campus home of Watson Stadium.
“We’re going to be facing a challenge or two that we haven’t faced in the past in regards to the stadium thing,” CCU coach Gary Gilmore said. “First, I just want to say we’re so grateful to the Pelicans and to the city of Myrtle Beach for giving us a place to play, a place to call home. … We totally understand we’re the visitors and we’re just appreciative of the opportunity to play.”
The Chants open the season Feb. 15 with a visit from James Madison, but that game will actually be played even farther away from campus at Francis Marion’s Sparrow Stadium in Florence before the teams reconvene in Myrtle Beach for two more games.
Gilmore suggested that the move across town to the Pelicans’ stadium this season could actually prove advantageous for the program.
“I’m looking at this whole thing as an opportunity,” he said. “I’m hoping it’s an opportunity to continue to nurture the fans we’ve had that have been growing the last few years, and hopefully by playing there all the time we’ll bring some new fans into the fold that have not been able to venture all the way out to Coastal. … I know [coaches] who have gone through similar things, and to have this ballpark and this opportunity is a godsend to us, to be very honest.”
Coastal finished 42-19 last season while winning its sixth-straight Big South Conference championship and making its 11th NCAA tournament appearance in the last 12 seasons.
The Chants’ young re-tooled roster will be tested early this spring as they host four early-season tournaments in February and March that will bring teams like Kansas State, Kentucky, San Diego, Indiana, N.C. State, Ohio State and Michigan among others.
Other highlights of the schedule include road games at Wake Forest, North Carolina and a three-game series at Georgia Tech and home-and-home series with UNC Wilmington, College of Charleston and The Citadel. Overall this season, Coastal will play seven teams that reached the 2012 NCAA tournament.
As for the series with the Yellow Jackets – May 3-5 – that was a strategic addition to the slate two and a half weeks in advance of the Big South tournament.
“It’s a great opportunity. One of the things we had talked about as a staff, we wanted to speed the game back up [by] playing at the highest level – against SEC, ACC teams,” Gilmore said. “We need a wake-up call at the end of each year before we go into the conference tournament or into the regional just to speed the game back up. … That was kind of the thinking behind that.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.