Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore usually wears the sting of defeat on his face and in his words after losses, each and every one eating at him in its own way, but on Sunday he had perspective.
Undermined by injuries to the team’s top two starting pitchers and power-hitting starting catcher, the Chanticleers had simply reached the end of the line on this season, falling 8-1 to host Texas A&M in a NCAA Regionals elimination game at the Aggies’ Blue Bell Park.
But in the big picture, the season had been an overwhelming success as the Chants (39-21) returned to the NCAA postseason after a one-year absence and looked rejuvenated after a 24-33 finish last year.
All the while, as Gilmore pointed out Sunday, exceeding most outside expectations.
“I think we were picked fourth in our league and nothing against the Big South, it’s never been a league that’s had four really good teams. So basically the people in our league were telling us what they thought of us,” he said. “And we didn’t have a single starting pitcher returning. The things we had done, by the end of March we were a pretty good team – we really were. I mean, way better than we are right now. And then you had [Alex] Cunningham go down and [Austin] Kerr goes down and then this happens and then that happens.
“It’s been an attrition factor. That didn’t beat us today, but it’s a contributing factor. There’s nothing anybody can do about it.”
The Chants – who were actually picked third in the Big South’s preseason poll – had made seven straight NCAA Regionals appearances before missing out in 2014, so getting back on the 64-team bracket was step one for a program accustomed to being a part of the postseason.
It was Coastal Carolina’s 13th regionals appearance in the last 15 years, after all.
But this was only step one, Gilmore noted.
“We have two seniors on this whole team. If we don’t lose draft guys and hold on to our recruiting class, we’re going to be a handful next year,” he said. “[But] we’ve got a lot of work to do. [Texas A&M was] way more physical than us, we’ve got a lot of time in the weight room we’ve got to spend. We’ve got to get better. … They’re better than we are right now. We’ve got to get better.”
Kerr, who went 8-1 with a 3.36 earned-run average before tearing a ligament in his elbow late in the season, and little-used relief pitcher Tom Durkin are the lone seniors on the roster.
Schroeder, who lead the Chants with 13 home runs in his first season with the program as a junior college transfer, could also depart after Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft (which starts June 8). Cunningham, who went 6-0 with a 2.56 ERA before being derailed by arm trouble, and junior third baseman Zach Remillard are among the team’s other draft-eligible players who could have a decision to make.
But Coastal Carolina will regardless return a strong core on top of an incoming recruiting class Gilmore is very high on in terms of its potential to make an immediate impact.
So the Chants will hope to be back in this spot next year, perhaps with a little more good luck in the health department.
“I thought it was a great season. We battled all year. It’s [disappointing] we came up a little short today, but we had a great year, got just about everybody coming back except Austin and Tom so we’re excited to get after it next year and get back to work,” junior outfielder Anthony Marks said.
The Chants were charged with six errors over their three games here, including three Sunday, and Gilmore thought there could have been even more.
Those defensive woes might have been the most frustrating part of the weekend for the coach.
“If you’re going to play Division I baseball, most of those plays have to be made – simple as that,” Gilmore said. “It’s what I’m talking about. It’s about making plays. …
“I think we got credited with what, three errors. On the plays that we didn’t make that were given hits, me as a coach, I expect us to make, there should have been five or six errors.”
Respect for Texas A&M
The Aggies brought a nice crowd to their home ballpark Sunday with the official attendance listed at 4,989, and Gilmore made a point in his postgame news conference to compliment the Texas A&M program and its fans.
“I’ll tell you, the hospitality of the people in this area and the way they go about doing their games, the people in the stands, this has got to be one of the neatest places in the country to play,” he said. “This is an outstanding venue and I tip my hat to all the people who support A&M. They’ve got a great university and their baseball program is very good.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or on Twitter @RyanYoungTSN.