Despite seven straight wins and victories in 13 of the last 15 games overall, the Coastal Carolina baseball team remains outside most of the national top 25 polls.
But the Chanticleers have a significant opportunity to boost their resume as they travel to play at No. 8 South Carolina on Tuesday night.
Not that the Chants ever need any extra motivation when playing the Gamecocks.
“You get a chance to play those guys, obviously for our kids, especially the kids who grew up in this state, it’s very huge,” Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. “And for our program right now, we’ve got to not only win but we’ve got to hunt down the opportunity for a big win. So it will be a huge game for us.”
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The Gamecocks come into the meeting with a 24-5 record while the Chants are 20-9.
Coastal Carolina is 6-13 all time in the series and 2-9 in games played in Columbia, but both sides remember what happened last year.
The Chants won the teams’ 2015 clash, 9-8, in 11 innings before a capacity crowd of 3,086 at Springs Brooks Stadium last March.
Connor Owings had a solo home run in the first inning of that game and then delivered a walk-off RBI single to seal the momentous win over a Gamecocks team ranked in the top 10 at the time.
It will be a tougher challenge this time, though, as South Carolina seems to have taken a step forward this season and boasts an 18-1 home record.
The Gamecocks are led offensively by catcher John Jones, who is batting .369 with seven doubles, six home runs and 33 RBIs, and first baseman Alex Destino, who is batting .360 with seven doubles, four homers and 26 RBIs.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Owings said. “We had a great battle with them last year and they’ve been playing well, so hopefully we just go in there and try to win pitch by pitch, picking each other up and we’ll be fine.”
Coastal Carolina was nationally ranked No. 21 by PerfectGame.org in its poll last week and moved into the Collegiate Baseball poll at No. 23 this week, but the Chants still remain out of the Baseball America, D1Baseball.com, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and USA Today Coaches polls.
“You look at stuff like that, but we’ve tried to look away from that,” Owings said Sunday. “I think today was the halfway point in the season so we’re literally just trying to win every single pitch throughout every single game. If they think we deserve to be in there, they’ll put us in there, but if not we’ll keep doing that and good things are going to happen.”
Beckwith honored by Big South
Junior right-hander Andrew Beckwith was named the Big South Pitcher of the Week after making three relief appearances and picking up two wins last week.
He helped protect a one-run lead last Wednesday night against The Citadel with two strikeouts over 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
On Friday, he inherited a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning with the Chants trailing by one and managed to induce an inning-ending double play while eventually earning the win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.
And Sunday he took over with the bases loaded with no outs in the fifth and allowed only one inherited runner to score while allowing only two hits over three scoreless innings to again earn the win.
Beckwith is 3-1 with a 2.56 earned-run average in 31 2/3 innings overall and has an exceptional 25-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Big week for Beaird
Sophomore catcher Matt Beaird was mired in an 0-for-20 slump heading into the Chants’ series finale against Stetson two weekends ago. He went 2-for-3 with three RBIs that game and ended up building a four-game hit streak, going 7-for-12 in the process, before going hitless Sunday against Gardner-Webb.
Since the end of that cold spell, he has raised his batting average from .139 to .235.
“He only had but one way to go,” Gilmore joked. “No, we talked the other day and I see him doing it – I asked him to give up two inches of the bat on the bottom end and just [act] like you’re up there with a two-strike mentality, find a ball and put it in play, don’t strikeout and [come through] when I need you to lay down a bunt. …
“During that stretch where his numbers were not very good, the balls that he did hit on the barrel seemed to always go to somebody. Now he’s hitting a Texas Leaguer here or there that’s finding a way to fall so I think you see his confidence [rising]. And also, getting a chance to play every day has helped him as much as anything.”
▪ Senior third baseman Zach Remillard enters the week with a .400 batting average and hits in 19 of his last 21 games. He’s reached base safely in all 21 of those games while batting .420 with 23 runs scored, nine doubles, five homers and 18 RBIs in that stretch.
▪ Senior closer Mike Morrison has not allowed a run over his last 11 appearances, going 2-0 with four saves and that sterling 0.00 ERA over his last 21 2/3 innings with 33 strikeouts and seven walks in that span.
▪ Junior shortstop Michael Paez is batting .394 over his last 10 games with three homers, 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored.
Who: Coastal Carolina at No. 8 South Carolina
Where: Carolina Baseball Stadium, Columbia
When: 7 p.m.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: WSEA-FM 100.3