The win Tuesday night on the road against a ranked North Carolina team will probably generate more attention, but what the Coastal Carolina baseball team did Wednesday evening was every bit as important.
The No. 25-ranked Chanticleers returned home to Springs Brooks Stadium and not only backed up that big win over the Tar Heels with a lopsided 9-5 victory over College of Charleston, but in so doing they managed to even the season series with the Cougars while further touching up the resume that the NCAA selection committee will eventually consider.
After squandering an early four-run lead, the Chants leaned on their recent indomitability while answering right back with five straight runs to again take control on a night where their 14 hits were more than enough to cover up for their five errors.
“No doubt it was a huge thing for us,” coach Gary Gilmore said. “Throw out everything, it’s a pride thing. We went down there and didn’t play very well and they spanked us a couple times and outplayed us. It was something [where] we wanted to make sure we played well.
Never miss a local story.
“And there were parts of the game today that we played well. There were parts I’m very, very disappointed in. ... But I’m very, very proud of how they fought. To win two mid-week games against teams that are going to be in the top-25 and North Carolina potentially a top-10 team and do one on the road and then have to come back here and play, that was a huge thing for us.”
After losing two games in March to College of Charleston (21-15-1) down in Mount Pleasant, the Chants (29-10) earned a 5-3 win here last week over the Cougars before taking out any remaining frustrations Wednesday night.
It’s unbelievable. It’s fun. Gilley’s having fun, the coaching staff is having fun, all the guys are having fun in the dugout. I mean, winning’s contagious and we’re all winners right now.
Coastal Carolina reliever Andrew Beckwith
There is a big difference between playing at home and on the road, sure, but that hasn’t been the only change as it relates to the teams.
With nine straight wins and victories in 16 of their last 17 games overall, the Chants have morphed from an inconsistent team with potential into one that now might have a chance to host an NCAA Regional if it keeps playing like this.
That’s still a ways off, but in the meanwhile, they and their fans are most definitely enjoying the ride.
“It’s unbelievable,” reliever Andrew Beckwith said. “It’s fun. Gilley’s having fun, the coaching staff is having fun, all the guys are having fun in the dugout. I mean, winning’s contagious and we’re all winners right now.”
Beckwith (6-1) was for sure on Wednesday night, throwing six innings of relief to pick up the win. The junior right-hander allowed six hits, no walks and three unearned runs thanks to the errors while striking out four in his longest outing of the season.
Offensively, the star yet again was senior Connor Owings, who went 3-for-5 with a homer, double, two runs scored and two RBIs to stretch his hitting streak to 18 games. He’s now batting .500 (33-for-66) during that stretch.
Junior G.K. Young stayed hot as well, going 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored, sophomores Billy Cooke (2-for-4, RBI) and Matt Beaird (2-for-3, run) also had multiple hits and junior Michael Paez had a solo home run.
“Those guys beat us twice already this year and they’ve had a great season so far and they’re a great ballclub and will definitely be in the postseason picture, so that’s a huge win for us,” Owings said.
Just as it did the night before at North Carolina, Coastal Carolina came out swinging early with four runs in the first on Paez’s solo homer, Tyler Chadwick’s RBI sacrifice fly, a steal of home by Zach Remillard on a double steal and an RBI double from Cooke.
But that lead was gone by the fourth inning.
Freshman Jason Bilous got the start and after opening with two scoreless innings he was touched for two runs in the third – both unearned.
For that matter, all of the Cougars’ runs were unearned, including two against Beckwith in the fourth as the second batter reached on his own fielding error and eventually came around to score to tie the game.
Beckwith was strong the rest of the way, though, and the Chants’ lineup did its part as usual.
Young put the hosts back ahead on a single to centerfield in the bottom of the fourth, Remillard plated another run on a fielder’s choice groundout and Owings launched a two-run homer out of the ballpark to right to make it 8-4.
Owings and Paez are each up to nine homers now to tie Young and Remillard for the team lead.
“Coach Gilmore challenged me before the year to try to stay as disciplined as I can every at-bat and not throw at-bats away,” Owings said. “I’ve just tried to stay on that grind every day, take it at-bat by at-bat and stay as mentally locked in as I can.”
Starter Michael Carpin (3-3) took the loss for College of Charleston, giving up nine hits, two walks and seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. Bradley Jones (3-for-5, RBI, run) and Luke Manzo (3-for-4, run) led the Cougars offensively.
As for the big picture, a couple of the latest national projections had Coastal Carolina hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time since 2010, for what it’s worth. Of course, that doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point of the season, but it does reflect the notice the Chants are earning nationally.
And that’s been the goal all along, to earn the right to host.
The way they’re playing now, well, it’s certainly possible.
“If we take care of business, we will force them to put us back in [that conversation],” Gilmore said. “Right now it’s too far away and we have way too many more things to handle. This weekend’s going to be huge for us, and looking ahead the Georgia Tech weekend’s going to be huge. Heck, from now on you’ve got to win about 80 percent of your games and win a big game or two on the road and things like that at a Georgia Tech or somewhere to continue to build a resume to do that.
“At least we have the opportunity to say we control our destiny so to speak. We have a chance to do it. We’re not going to have to count on everyone else to do it for us. If we play the way we’re playing now and can ride it out for another month, we’ll have a chance. We should definitely have our name on the table there for sure.”