Coastal Carolina baseball players back in Myrtle Beach as Winston-Salem teammates
Nearly two years since Coastal Carolina won the NCAA national championship, it’s still a hot topic in baseball.
Zach Remillard, now a member of the Winston-Salem Dash minor league baseball team in the Chicago White Sox organization, said he has even been asked about it by an opposing first baseman while he standing on first base following a single.
“(It comes up) more than you would imagine,” Remillard said. “At first they don’t know. They always ask if you were on the national championship team. But they’re always curious. Coastal seems to be put on the map after that and they’ve kind of become more aware of the school name. … You always get the question. It’s nice for the recognition, but it does get brought up a lot, for sure.”
It will surely be talked about a lot this week at Pelicans Ballpark, as Remillard and former national championship teammate Mike Morrison are both members of the Dash and are playing a three-game series against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans through Wednesday.
Morrison said if the national title isn’t brought up, he’ll bring it up. He talks about the national championship quite frequently, to the point his Dash teammates may have grown weary of hearing about it.
“I ramble a lot. I’m very, very proud of it,” Morrison said. “I don’t know if there will ever be a bigger highlight in my life than that. It’s something I’m still riding very high on and I’m super ecstatic about it.”
Both Morrison and Remillard were seniors on the 2016 team, and both were drafted by the White Sox in the 2016 Major League Baseball draft – Remillard in the 10th round and Morrison in the 27th round.
They lived together while both were playing on the Kannapolis Intimidators for the first half of last year before Morrison’s call-up to the Dash midway through the season, they are still neighbors in Charlotte now that Morrison lives with his fiancée, and they are roommates in Winston-Salem. They worked out together in the offseason.
“There’s very little time we’re not together,” Morrison said. “It’s very nice, it’s a good comfort level, and it makes it interesting every day because being a bullpen guy you don’t play every day, and I’m actually pretty invested in Zach’s life and career as well, so getting to watch him and root for him every day is very fun.”
Morrison, a late innings relief pitcher from Gilbert, picked up the win over Myrtle Beach on Monday night, throwing two scoreless and hitless innings to close out the game with two walks and two strikeouts in front of many of his former Coastal Carolina teammates and coaches, who were mostly congregated above the bullpen down the left field line.
“That was pretty special for me,” Morrison said. “I got to introduce them to some of my new friends. … It’s good to see all those guys. It’s your family. You come back home and you get to see your family. It makes baseball a lot of fun.”
Remillard, an infielder from Cohoes, N.Y., said he visited the Coastal campus this week during his first visit to Myrtle Beach as a minor-leaguer.
“Every time we go there they treat us first class. It’s so good to see those guys,” Remillard said. “We spent four years there, those guys are our family. So you’ll make time. You’ll wake up a little earlier than you usually do, and put them on the pass list and make sure they’re hanging out after the game to get some quality time together.”
Remillard has played in three of the Dash’s first five games and is 3 for 10 with a run and RBI. He was 1 for 4 while playing third base against the Pelicans on Monday.
Thus far in 180 minor league games in rookie ball, low A and now advanced A, Remillard is batting .248 with 12 home runs, 37 doubles, four triples, 77 runs scored, 67 RBI, 27 walks, 162 strikeouts, and nine stolen bases in 15 attempts.
“The White Sox have been awesome,” he said. “I’m just enjoying the ride and trying to get better each day, and enjoying the process. I lean on my faith, take it a day at a time and trust the plan, trust the process and just compete every day.”
Remillard is still adjusting to the length of the season and the quality of the pitching he faces. He played in 133 games last season with the low-A Kannapolis (N.C.).
“With the length of the season, there aren’t as many off days timed down, so your workout schedule gets a little bit adjusted, and the recovery aspect becomes even bigger,” Remillard said.
“It’s everyone’s best guy,” he continued. “Not everyone in college gets an opportunity to play professional baseball, and the best players in college move on and they progress. So each day you’re facing the top arms of college baseball and top high school guys that keep progressing each year, so the competition level goes through the roof.”
Morrison was 2-3 with 5.03 ERA with the Dash in the second half of last year, throwing just 34 innings in 19 games and allowing 36 hits, 18 walks, 33 strikeouts and two saves. This season, Morrison has allowed just one hit in three innings with three walks and three strikeouts.
Morrison had to deal with the death of his mother last summer that heavily impacted his performance in the second half of the year. “This year I’m a lot more comfortable here than last year. I had some family issues in the second half last year that I really struggled with and I didn’t really bring my competitive attitude to the ballpark every day and that’s something I had to work through. I feel I’m in a very good place now and I’m super excited about it.”
“I’m normally as bought-in a baseball player as there is, and it’s just something tough you’ve got to deal with. It makes baseball seem not as important. Now I’ve cleared my head and had an offseason, and it’s back to being a very high priority on my list, along with my family, and it’s very fun again, so that’s good.”
This year’s Coastal Carolina team, which still features the primary coaching staff of head coach Gary Gilmore, associate head coach Kevin Schnall and pitching coach Drew Thomas, along with volunteer assistant Matt Schilling, entered Tuesday’s game at Wake Forest 23-11 overall and 10-2 in the Sun Belt Conference, and both Remillard and Morrison have been watching closely.
“They’ve been playing great,” Morrison said. “No matter what bodies are in that locker room you know that Gilley and Thomas and Schnall and Schilling and all are going to get the best out of everybody.”