CCU coach Gilmore addresses team’s struggles after loss to Clemson
The Coastal Carolina baseball team is limping to the finish of the regular season, and a meeting with in-state rival Clemson on Tuesday did nothing to help matters.
Coastal fell behind 8-0 in the second inning and the Tigers slugged out a 14-3 win at Springs Brooks Stadium.
Coastal fell to 28-22-1 with three games remaining in the regular season at home against Appalachian State from Thursday through Saturday before it hosts the Sun Belt Conference Tournament next week.
“I think we emotionally and physically came to play tonight and you have inning No. 2 happen and what do you do?” CCU coach Gary Gilmore said. “We’ve had way too many of these type of games. I don’t know how to stop it. I don’t think I’ve slept in two months. I’ve looked at every number humanly known to man to try to figure out where it’s coming from, how to stop it, what person to put in here, what person to put in there, at the end of the day it just hasn’t worked at this point.”
Clemson, which has also struggled down the stretch, improved to 31-22 and completed a two-game sweep of the Chants on the season, having taken an 8-5 win on March 13 in Clemson when both teams were ranked in the top 15 nationally.
Clemson senior first baseman Grayson Byrd had the big night at the plate, going 3-for-6 with a home run, six RBI and two runs scored. Senior rightfielder Kieton Rivers was 3-for-4 with two RBI for the Chants.
The Chants raced out to a 7-0 record this season, and on March 23 they were 18-4-1 overall and 5-0 in the Sun Belt Conference through a formidable early-season schedule and were a consensus national top 25 team.
Since then, Coastal is 10-18 and has fallen to 13-12 in the Sun Belt.
“There are no excuses,” Gilmore said. “I can look anyone in the eye and tell them we are insanely underachieving. I don’t care how many injuries we’ve had we insanely underachieve in the win-loss column with this team. At the end of the day, hey man, I’m the head coach, that’s on me. Why are we underachieving? . . . Stuff like this eats me alive.”
The Chants, winners of the last two Sun Belt regular-season championships and last year’s conference tournament championship – this is their third season in the conference – will need to win next week’s conference tournament to make their 16th NCAA regional in the past 19 years.
The top six teams in the overall conference standings receive byes into the double-elimination portion of the tournament, while other teams have play-in games next Tuesday. The Chants are sixth in the standings, but could be passed by several teams this weekend if they stumble.
“You could have one good pitching outing and it could go away,” Gilmore said. “That’s how crazy it is. I’m hoping we can somehow get stellar efforts these next three games at home here to position ourselves in the top six in the conference so we don’t have to play a play-in game. That’s the last thing we need.”
Injuries have hit the pitching staff.
Three pitchers who threw in Tuesday’s game are all returning from injuries that caused them to miss more than a month of the season.
Freshman starter Garrett McDaniels (0-3) of Nichols and senior reliever Bobby Holmes each pitched for the first time since March, and junior lefthander Scott Kobos made his fourth appearance since returning from more than a month out of action, and threw two scoreless innings with a strikeout.
But poor outings have been as much of an issue as injuries, as the staff earned-run average is 5.33 and the Chants have given up an additional 48 unearned runs in their 51 games.
“For this team to ever move forward some group of people have to pitch better, it’s as simple as that,” Gilmore said. “Not that that’s the only thing we need to do. We have issues defensively in the infield and the outfield. One is not helping the other. Everything we could do wrong it seems to all snowball in one inning.”
Coastal’s offense, while sometimes lacking hits at key junctures of games, has generally been impressive.
Seven Chants with more than 140 at-bats entered Tuesday hitting .300 or better, and CCU entered the game in the top 25 nationally in 10 different offensive categories – 12th in slugging percentage (.483), 15th in on-base percentage (.406), 16th in scoring (7.7 runs per game), 17th in runs (384), 18th in sacrifice flies (30), 21st in home runs (63), batting average (.299) and hits (532), 22nd in hit-by-pitch (78) and 25th in triples (18).
“We can roll out there Thursday and look like a team challenging to play in a regional if we pitch and play defense,” Gilmore said. “Offensively somewhere along the way I believe we’ll score a run here and there or do some things offensively. It’s simply can we catch the ball, can we throw strikes and keep the other team out of multiple-run innings.”
Clemson also likely still has work to do in order to play in an NCAA Regional. The Tigers were 25-8 overall and 11-4 in the ACC on April 11, then lost eight in a row and 11 of 12 en route to going 6-14 in their last 20 games and now sit at 13-14 in the conference.
Coastal is 10-47 all-time against the Tigers, including going 2-4 in the past six games and 4-9 in the past 13 games against Clemson since 2010.