Returning members of the Coastal Carolina baseball team are local celebrities nowadays.
After an incredible – even improbable – run that ended with a College World Series title last summer in Omaha, Neb., the Chanticleers have people’s attention.
“We have the best fans. Coming back and having the big parade we had in Conway. I think the whole town of Conway came out,” Junior Seth Lancaster told The Sun News recently. “It’s just so fun to go eat with your buddies, like go out to lunch at Moe’s or something, and you’re having a conversation and people say, ‘Oh, you play baseball.’ . . . You sit there and have a 10-minute conversation and they say, ‘Thank you.’ ”
However, the pollsters are not quite as impressed.
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Coastal opened up at No. 15 in Baseball America’s preseason poll and debuted at No. 19 in Collegiate Baseball’s rankings.
As Rodney Dangerfield says, “No respect.”
In the last 10 years, only two defending champs – Fresno State in 2009 and Arizona in 2013 – were ranked lower than the Chants in Baseball America’s preseason poll. The Bulldogs garnered the least respect, starting unranked, while the Wildcats barely got in the Top 25 at 24th. Only one of the other teams in the last 10 years to win a national title was ranked outside of the top 10 in the following year’s preseason poll, UCLA (No. 12) in 2014. The six others debuted in the top seven.
I think the pollsters are missing something here.
While Coastal will have five new position players and a new DH starting when they host Richmond at 4 p.m. Friday in the Caravelle Resort’s Baseball at the Beach to open the season, they do return what should be a dominant pitching staff.
Andrew Beckwith, the darling of the CWS, returns to head a rotation that also includes Alex Cunningham and Jason Bilous, a trio that combined to go 26-8 a year ago. The Chants also return a strong closer in Bobby Holmes.
Beckwith was simply dominant, finishing 15-1 with a 1.85 earned-run average, and he’s hungry for more.
“You’re never satisfied. Coaches always say you can’t be satisfied with anything, so obviously I have other personal goals and they’ll change as the year goes on. I’m just ready to get out there and compete,” he told The Sun News recently. “I’ve been known as a contact guy who gets ground balls, but it will be nice to not make my infield work as hard this year.”
In fact, the lack of respect might serve as a plus for the Chanticleers, who hadn’t made it to the College World Series before last season, when they debuted in the poll at No. 23. Once there, they played somewhat of a Cinderella role, knocking off the likes of N.C. State (2017 preseason No. 14), LSU (No. 4), Florida (No. 3), TCU (No. 1), Texas Tech (No. 25) and Arizona (No. 22) along the way.
Interestingly enough, only two of those teams Coastal eliminated are ranked lower than it this preseason.
Those teams should be on the lookout. It could be only a matter of time before Rafiki the rally monkey makes another appearance.
And the Chants just might once again make the pollsters look stupid.
The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team has a pair of games this week as it hosts Georgia State at 7 p.m. Monday and plays at Troy at 4:15 p.m. Saturday. … The CCU women’s basketball team plays at South Alabama on Thursday (7 p.m.) and at Troy at 2 p.m. Saturday. … The Coastal Carolina baseball team opens the season with the Caravelle Resort’s Baseball at the Beach tournament beginning Friday, when the Chants take on Richmond (4 p.m.). CCU also hosts Western Carolina at 2 p.m. Saturday, James Madison at 1 p.m. Sunday and St. John’s at noon Monday as part of the tournament. … The Coastal softball team hosts the Battle At The Beach tournament beginning Friday, when it hosts UMKC at 3 p.m. and Rider at 5:30 p.m. The Chants play UMKC again at 3 p.m. Saturday and take on UNC Greensboro at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. … CCU’s women’s tennis team plays at College of Charleston at 1 p.m. Thursday and then hosts Francis Marion at 2 p.m. Sunday. … The Chants’ men’s tennis team hosts two matches this week as it takes on Campbell at 2 p.m. Friday and Appalachian State at 11 a.m. Sunday. … Area high school basketball squads open up postseason play this week. … The South Carolina High School League Lower State wrestling individual meets take place this weekend at their respective sites. … Major League Baseball players will start to trickle in for spring training this week at their respective sites. … The NBA will hold its All-Star festivities this weekend in New Orleans. The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game is at 7 p.m. Friday (ESPN) and the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge follows at 9 p.m. on TNT. … On Saturday, NBA D-League All-Star Game will be played at 2:30 p.m. (NBA TV), with State Farm All-Star Saturday Night – featuring the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, JBL Three-Point Contest and Verizon Slam Dunk contest – tipping off at 8 p.m. on TNT. The 66th NBA All-Star Game is set for 8 p.m. Sunday (TNT). … NASCAR season revs up this weekend with the Monster Energy Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona at 8 p.m. Saturday (FS1), followed by Daytona 500 qualifying at 3:10 p.m. (Fox). … The Clemson men’s basketball team hosts Wake Forest at 7 p.m. Tuesday and plays at Miami at noon Saturday. … The South Carolina men’s basketball team hosts Arkansas at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and plays at Vanderbilt at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. … The USC women’s basketball team will play at Connecticut looking to keep the Huskies from winning their 100th straight game at 9 p.m. Monday (ESPN2). … In tennis, the ATP Tour begins the ATP ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament and ATP Argentina Open, and the WTA Tour begins play in the WTA Qatar Total Open. … The PGA Tour heads to Palisades, Calif., this week for the Genesis Open.
Ranking after a CWS title
Year of CWS title
Following preseason ranking
*All rankings from Baseball America