The Coastal Carolina baseball team made quite a first impression in its first year in the Sun Belt Conference.
The Chanticleers recorded the best record in conference games at 22-7-1, and Monday it was announced the Chants have the conference’s player of the year and freshman of the year for 2017.
Billy Cooke, who led the league in three offensive categories, was voted Sun Belt Player of the Year and Cory Wood, who had the league’s best batting average in conference games, was selected the Sun Belt Freshman on the Year.
Cooke, Alex Cunningham and Kevin Woodall Jr., were named All-Sun Belt First Team, while Wood, Andrew Beckwith and Jordan Gore earned second team honors.
The conference honors were voted on by the league’s head coaches and coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players.
Cooke is the 13th CCU player since 1986 to earn a conference POY award, while Wood is the fifth Chant to be named a league FOY.
Cooke led the league in batting (.360), on base percentage (.484) and runs scored (52) and was the only player in the league to rank among its top eight in batting, on-base percentage, runs scored, slugging percentage (3rd; .599), stolen bases (3rd; 21), total bases (4th; 117), hits (6th; 71), doubles (6th; 15), walks (7th; 37) and home runs (8th; 10).
He additionally ranked third in hit by pitch (16), second in sacrifice flies (6) and fourth in sacrifice bunts (10), and made just one error in center field.
When Cooke led off an inning, he reached base 53.7 percent of the time (44 of 82 opportunities) and scored 27 times (61.3 percent) in those instances.
Wood is the only freshman on the first or second teams and hit a conference-best .406 in Sun Belt games – 19 points better than the next player – and additionally posted a league-best .531 on base percentage. He reached base in 41 of 45 games played and missed nine games with a hand injury.
Cunningham, a three-time Sun Belt pitcher of the week and three-time National Player/Pitcher of the Week, was edged out for conference pitcher of the year by Gunner Leger of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Cunningham led the Sun Belt with 115 strikeouts, which ranks 10th nationally, and ranked sixth in the league in ERA (2.68) and fourth in opponent batting average (.192). Those numbers improved to 2.40 and .170 in league games, and Cunningham ranked 19th nationally in WHIP (0.91) and 33rd in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.26).
Woodall led the Sun Belt in home runs (18) and RBIs (60), ranking eighth and 24th in those categories nationally, and was second in total bases with 122. He posted a .261 average and .368 on-base percentage and reached base in 51 of CCU’s 56 games.
Beckwith had a conference-best 8-0 record in league play and was sixth with a 2.73 ERA in league games. For the season, he was 8-1 with a 4.00 ERA.
Gore, of Conway, finished the season on a 14-game hitting streak and had a hit in 24 of his last 26 games, batting .348 over the span. He batted .344 in league games to rank ninth and played every inning of the season as shortstop.