Heading into a key three-game series with fellow Big South challenger High Point this weekend, the Coastal Carolina baseball team incredibly has four players tied for the team lead at nine home runs each.
It’s incredible because the Chanticleers have had only four players reach double-figures in home runs in a season over the last five years combined and could now have four or more do it this spring.
And it’s more than just a fun factoid – the last time the Chants had this depth of power in their lineup they went all the way to the NCAA Super Regionals and the brink of a College World Series berth in 2010.
At 29-10 overall and 11-1 in the Big South with wins in nine straight games and 16 of their last 17, these Chants are in the midst of their own special season, and that power surge has been a key ingredient to this point.
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“Definitely the lineup is the closest one we’ve had to that  team,” coach Gary Gilmore said. “As much power as this team has, you think about that team hit  home runs. It’s insane. This one’s going to probably hit 80, and of all the people we’ve played honestly nobody, knock on wood, has the power numbers we have.”
Senior right fielder Connor Owings and junior shortstop Michael Paez clubbed their ninth homers Wednesday in a 9-5 win over College of Charleston to match junior designated hitter G.K. Young and senior third baseman Zach Remillard for the team lead.
At 50 home runs, the Chants have 26 more than any other Big South team and rank seventh in NCAA Division I with 1.28 homers per game.
For perspective, the Chants had two players reach 10 homers last season – Casey Schroeder (13) and David Parrett (10) – and also had two accomplish the feat in 2011 when Tommy La Stella hit 14 and Daniel Bowman slugged 12.
That 2010 team had six players hit double-figure home runs back before the NCAA modified the standards for bats to counteract the power surge in the college game.
The Chants later weathered two seasons away from home at the cavernous TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark when they hit just 21 and 17 homers in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
The power is back in the Coastal Carolina lineup, though, and it’s driving the Chants toward what they hope will be another memorable postseason run.
“We kind of did talk about it today, just kind of chuckled a little bit that our two through five guys all have nine home runs. That’s definitely great to have in the middle of your lineup,” Owings said Wednesday night.
“Guys are having incredible years. Zach has been having an awesome year, Paez has been doing what he does, G.K., it’s just unbelievable the way those guys swing the bat. I think having those guys around me has kind of helped me get a little more pitches to hit.”
Stats and streaks
In addition to home runs, Coastal Carolina leads the Big South in batting average at .308 and earned-run average at 3.57 (nearly half a run better than any other team).
The Chants also have several individuals ranking among the conference leaders.
Owings is tied with Gardner-Webb’s Collin Thacker atop the Big South batting race at .400 and leads the league with a .704 slugging percentage and 95 total bases. He also has an 18-game hitting streak, which is just two away from the longest on record in program history (Michael Costanzo’s 20-gamer in 2005).
Meanwhile, Young is second with 58 hits, second with 43 RBIs, tied for second with 94 total bases and third with 38 runs scored.
Paez is second with 39 runs scored and sophomore Billy Cooke is third with 17 stolen bases.
And on the mound, junior righty Andrew Beckwith leads the league with a 1.81 earned-run average and he and junior righty Alex Cunningham are tied for second with six wins each.
Beckwith has not allowed an earned run over his last 26 innings.
The most impressive streak of all, though, belongs to senior closer Mike Morrison, who has not allowed an earned run in his last 32 innings. He’s allowed only one unearned run during that stretch while totaling 47 strikeouts and allowing only three of 20 inherited runners to score.
While the Chants are no doubt rolling at this point with those 16 wins in the last 17 games, Gilmore is frustrated that his team is not playing to its potential in every aspect.
Specifically, Coastal Carolina has been inconsistent defensively, and gave up five unearned runs in its win over College of Charleston on Wednesday.
“We’re very fortunate that our power and some of the things we have right now are covering up some of the things that we’re not very good at it,” he said. “And those are things that we have the ability to be very good at, and it’s very frustrating.”
Paez, who can be dazzling at shortstop at times, has five errors in the last three games himself and 15 now for the season after committing only 13 all of last year.
“He has to make the plays, simple as that,” Gilmore said. “He has to make them. It’s not like he can’t do it. He’s got to make them, and I can say that about two or three other guys.”
Scouting High Point
High Point comes into this series with a 25-13 overall record and an 8-4 Big South mark, which is good for second in the conference.
The Panthers rank second in the league behind Coastal Carolina with a 4.00 collective ERA.
They are scheduled to pitch senior right-hander Scot Hoffman (3-3, 4.69 ERA) on Saturday, junior righty Andre Scrubb (6-3, 3.78) on Sunday and freshman righty Andrew Gottfried (4-2, 2.86) on Monday.
Offensively, High Point is led by junior Chris Clare, who is batting .367 with 13 doubles, a triple, two home runs, 20 RBIs and 30 runs. The Panthers don’t have anyone with more than three home runs and have hit only 13 as a team.
Coastal Carolina is set to start Cunningham (6-1, 3.97) in the series opener, sophomore righty Bobby Holmes (3-1, 4.87) on Sunday and have yet to announce a starter for Monday.
Coastal Carolina has won five of its last six meetings with High Point, leads the all-time series 45-13 and is 19-4 in home meetings.
This weekend series was pushed back a day due to concerns about the weather Friday.
Saturday is Military Appreciation Day at Springs Brooks Stadium, and the Chants will have a special POW/MIA Chair of Honor dedication before the game along with the return of the veteran motorcycle group. The ceremony starts at 1:30 p.m.
High Point at No. 25 Coastal Carolina
Springs Brooks Stadium, Conway
Saturday: 2 p.m.
Sunday: 2 p.m.
Monday: 4 p.m.