MYRTLE BEACH — By the time this second full week of the college baseball season is complete, Coastal Carolina will have already played three of the top-11 ranked teams in the country along with a handful of other notable foes as part of a daunting early schedule.
Chanticleers coach Gary Gilmore is putting his young roster up against some considerable challengers early on as the team tries to find its identity, and he joked that he may have overdone it a bit this week with the field of teams assembled for the Caravelle Resort’s Baseball at the Beach tournament.
The annual event features No. 10-ranked N.C. State, Big 10 preseason favorite Indiana, reigning Sun Belt Conference regular-season champion Florida Atlantic and a San Diego team coming off a 40-win season with one of the premier hitters in the country.
“Baseball at the Beach has become one of the better tournaments in the country in the early season,” Gilmore said. “We’re very fortunate for all the support to make this happen, and with these teams coming in the baseball fans in our area, they’ve got a chance to see some of the best college baseball in the country. ... To come out and watch some of these kids, it’s a great opportunity for the people in Myrtle Beach to see some of the elite people in the country and some guys they’ll be seeing in the big leagues in a few years.”
Start with N.C. State. The Wolfpack are led by sophomore standout Carlos Rodon, who ranked among the NCAA leaders last season with a 1.57 earned-run average and 135 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings. Gilmore suggested the left-hander could be the first pick in the Major League Baseball amateur draft next year. It’s unclear if Rodon will pitch against the Chants on Sunday or in an earlier game, but he isn’t the only preseason first-team All-American on the N.C. State roster. Sophomore shortstop Trea Turner, who led the NCAA with 57 stolen bases while batting .336 with five home runs last season, is another touted prospect.
San Diego, meanwhile, opens the tournament against Coastal on Thursday and features one of the top hitting prospects in college baseball. Preseason first-team All-American Kris Bryant is coming off a season in which he hit .366 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs. The Chants will then clash with Florida Atlantic on Friday and Indiana on Saturday.
“This could potentially be the best field we’ve ever had,” Gilmore said.
As for his own team, the Chants (3-3) are off to an up-and-down start and have already faced a North Carolina team ranked No. 1 by Baseball America and a No. 11 Kentucky team.
“Some of the things we’ve experienced, I completely whole-heartedly expected,” Gilmore said. “We’re running a bunch of freshmen out there as well as numerous first-year Coastal players. Our continuity and just getting comfortable playing together, much less playing at a high level, is going to be a challenge. I knew that going in. We’ve been facing some pretty doggone good arms.”
Hering’s hot start
And the Chants haven’t done much offensively against those arms yet with only one regular batting better than .222. The lone exception is junior right fielder Colin Hering, who is hitting .409 through his first six games with Coastal.
A transfer from Bellevue College in Washington, Hering has settled in the best so far among the Chants’ influx of newcomers.
“The first few games were nerve-wracking [moving up to] Division I baseball,” Hering said. “But you’ve got to just trust your ability and having success early makes the transition real smooth.”
Hering said he was also considering Hawaii when looking for his next college baseball home, but his visit to Coastal cemented his decision.
“The thing that stood out to me most was when I came on my visit here, coach Gilmore had me see a paper of the top-30 winning percentages in college baseball (including Coastal) and I just wanted the chance to win and compete and to get a chance to go to Omaha,” he said. “And this is a good place for it.”
Gilmore said junior right-hander Tyler Herb (2-0, 2.08 ERA), the reigning Big South Pitcher of the Week, will start on the mound Thursday against San Diego. Redshirt-freshman righty Tyler Poole (0-1, 18.00) will make his second collegiate start Friday, with sophomore lefty Ben Smith (0-0, 1.93) throwing Saturday and freshman Alex Cunningham (0-1, 9.95) making his second start Sunday.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.