Coastal Carolina will not have an opportunity to defend its 2016 NCAA national baseball championship this postseason.
The Chanticleers did not receive an at-large bid into the NCAA Baseball Tournament on Monday, marking just the second time in the past 11 years and third time in the past 17 years the Chanticleers have failed to participate in an NCAA regional.
CCU (37-19-1) did not receive one of the 33 at-large berths into the 64-team field despite being the reigning national champs and being the Sun Belt Conference regular season champion with a 22-7-1 record that included 11 consecutive wins to close out the regular season.
“When you get to the end of a season you make the bed you lie in, and we’re lying in the one we’ve made,” Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said, “and we’ve had opportunity after opportunity all year to be a little bit better.”
When you get to the end of a season you make the bed you lie in, and we’re lying in the one we’ve made, and we’ve had opportunity after opportunity all year to be a little bit better.
Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore
As the Sun Belt’s top seed, CCU lost 7-5 to eighth-seeded Texas State in its opening game of the conference tournament on Friday in Statesboro, Ga., after the tournament was changed from double elimination to single elimination following two days of cancellations because of rain.
“I thought we were playing really good and there’s not doubt in my mind the time off didn’t do us good,” Gilmore said.
The Chants are just the fourth reigning national champion to miss the tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1999.
The chairman of the NCAA baseball selection committee, University of San Francisco director of athletics Scott Sidwell, told ESPN on Monday that the first four teams left out of the tournament were Miami, Connecticut, Old Dominion and South Carolina, so the Chants apparently weren’t given great consideration for a berth.
Since 2001, the Chants have been left out of the NCAA Tournament in just 2006, 2014 and 2017. While many of the berths were automatic via Big South Conference tournament championships, the Chants received at-large berths in 2005, 2013 and 2015.
The Sun Belt was ranked 10th among conferences this season in the Rating Percentage Index (RPI) that measures the strength of college baseball teams, according to the WarrenNolan.com website, while the Big South was 18th.
The Chants are ranked 57th in the RPI, which is third in the conference behind South Alabama at 33 and Louisiana-Lafayette at 55. Conference tournament champion South Alabama is the lone Sun Belt representative in the NCAA tournament as the No. 3 seed in a regional hosted by Southern Mississippi.
The Chants had a strong non-conference schedule, with seven games against teams in the top 35 in the current RPI, but they lost all of them, falling to North Carolina, Clemson and St. John’s and twice each to Wake Forest and West Virginia. The Chants were 2-8 against top-35 teams, going 2-1 against South Alabama.
Once it lost in its Sun Belt tournament opener, Coastal’s only hope of making the NCAA field was to be the conference’s lone at-large berth, and results in the conference tournament over the weekend gave the Chants optimism.
They likely needed UL-Lafayette to also lose in its conference tournament opener, which it did in extra innings Friday when Georgia Southern hit a grand slam in the ninth inning to take a one-run lead, threw the potential game-winning run out at the plate in the bottom of the ninth and won in 11 innings.
The Chants then needed South Alabama to claim the title. It did Sunday with back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie Georgia Southern after allowing a go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the ninth, and a run in the 10th.
But the committee granted the Sun Belt just its automatic berth, and the Chants were also hurt by teams including Oklahoma State, Iowa, Rice and Xavier likely stealing bids with tournament championships and intensifying the competition for at-large berths.
CCU’s exclusion from the postseason ends the collegiate careers of pitchers Andrew Beckwith, Alex Cunningham and Cole Schaefer, who all played a role in the national championship.