Coastal Carolina began the 2018 season on a near-perfect day for baseball at Springs Brooks Stadium, and the Chanticleers brought a performance to match the weather.
With temperatures near 80 degrees at game time, the Chanticleers dismantled Virginia Tech 17-2 to kick off the season in the 19th annual Brittain Resorts Baseball at the Beach tournament in front of an announced crowd of 3,154, which is the third largest regular season on-campus home crowd in program history.
“I think the potential is there,” Coastal coach Gary Gilmore said. “One game, especially a game like that, it’s too difficult to really put a barometer on what we’re capable of. Obviously we showed signs of having a chance to be really good.”
The 15-run margin of victory matched the second largest in a CCU season opener, and if you’re into omens, the Chanticleers also opened the 2016 season with a 17-2 win over Appalachian State and went on to win the NCAA national championship.
“Maybe it’s good luck,” junior starting pitcher Jason Bilous said. “I think it might be [an omen]. I sure hope so.”
Senior Kevin Woodall Jr. of Georgetown, who led the Sun Belt Conference with both 18 home runs and 60 RBI last season, displayed that power with a towering two-run homer in the first inning that sailed out of the stadium on a curveball that stayed up in the strike zone. Woodall paced an offense that amassed 15 hits, including seven that went for extra bases, by going 3-for-5 with a career-high six RBI.
The homer came on Woodall’s first swing of the season.
“I’ve been feeling great in intrasquads leading up to the season, just kind of ready to face some new guys, honestly,” Woodall said. “I had a chance to do that and felt great in the box.
“Getting on the board early is kind of what we teach here. We want to get ahead and put guys behind us early, and we had a chance to do that today.”
Bilous, a hard-throwing righthander who is ranked among the top 60 pro prospects in college by D1Baseball.com, allowed one run on four hits in five innings and struck out nine while walking three. Control has been an issue for Bilous in the past.
“I thought Jason pitched very well,” Gilmore said. “He had one or two little hiccups in five innings but he made up for things with strikeouts. He threw consistently more strikes than he has in the past and his misses were small. He did a lot of great things for us.”
Back in 2016 we weren’t the best but we played as a team and this team, we can easily do that. If we play together, there’s no one who can stop us.
CCU junior pitcher Jason Bilous
In addition to its 15 hits, Coastal benefitted from 11 walks and three hit batters.
“It’s great to see guys hit against pitching that wasn’t really dominant, that’s kind of what we should do against pitching like that,” Woodall said. “So it’s good to see us swing the bat one through nine throughout the lineup.”
Leadoff hitter Cory Wood was 2-for-5 with two RBI and three runs scored, Kieton Rivers had two hits including a home run and Seth Lancaster added a home run and three runs scored.
The Chants introduced three new players in the starting lineup Friday, and they all made an impression. Redshirt sophomore Keaton Weisz, an Auburn transfer who sat out the 2017 season, batted second and went 1-for-4 with three runs scored and a double and made a couple nice plays in the field.
“I thought Keaton Weisz did a great job,” Woodall said. “The guy has been practicing for two years and comes out right off the bat with a double in the first inning and making plays at shortstop.”
Junior Zach Biermann, a junior college transfer, batted fifth as the designated hitter and was 1-for-3 with a double and RBI, and freshman centerfielder Parker Chavers from Montgomery, Ala., batted ninth and was 2-for-4 with a run.
“Some people get a little nervous when people start showing up in the stands, so it was good to see some of those newer guys have poise and swing the bat well today,” Woodall said.
Following Bilous’ exit, the Chants sent three new relievers to the mound in relief, and freshman Trevor Damron and juniors Davie Inman and Scott Kobos allowed a combined one run and three hits over four innings.
“I’m really pleased with the guys that came out of the bullpen,” said Gilmore, who improved to 21-2 in home openers in his 23 years leading the program. “Pretty much everybody is a first-timer out there, so it was a great kind of game for us to be able to not put them in a game-changing situation walking out there for the very first time in a game.”
The Chants next face Oklahoma, which is ranked 18th in Perfect Game USA’s top 25 rankings and defeated Indiana 6-3 on Friday. The Sooners have a doubleheader Saturday with games against South Alabama at 11 a.m. and CCU at 3 p.m.
“It will amp up exponentially on us tomorrow,” Gilmore said. “It will be a good test to see how we make that next step forward.”
Baseball at the Beach schedule, results
Oklahoma 6, Indiana 3, Pelicans Ballpark
South Alabama 13, Kansas State 5, Pelicans Ballpark
Coastal Carolina 17, Virginia Tech 2, Springs Brooks Stadium
Oklahoma vs. South Alabama, Springs Brooks Stadium, 11 a.m.
Kansas State vs. Indiana, Pelicans Ballpark, noon
Oklahoma vs. Coastal Carolina, Springs Brooks Stadium, 3 p.m.
South Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, Pelicans Ballpark, 4:30 p.m.
South Alabama vs. Indiana, Springs Brooks Stadium, 10:30 a.m.
Oklahoma vs. Virginia Tech, Pelicans Ballpark, 2 p.m.
Kansas State vs. Coastal Carolina, Springs Brooks Stadium, 2:30 p.m.
Indiana vs. Coastal Carolina, Springs Brooks Stadium, 11 a.m.
Virginia Tech vs. Kansas State, Pelicans Ballpark, noon