Coastal Carolina learns its NCAA regional site
If this past week wasn’t hot enough for the Coastal Carolina baseball team, it is headed to Hotlanta.
The Chanticleers (35-24-1) were named the third seed in the NCAA Atlanta Regional hosted by Georgia Tech on Monday and will face second-seeded Auburn (33-25) in their opening game at noon (Eastern) Friday.
Host Georgia Tech (41-17), the No. 3 national seed, will face Florida A&M (27-32) at 7 p.m. in the other first-round game Friday in the four-team, double-elimination regional.
Coastal is playing in its 16th regional in the past 19 years, and won the NCAA title in 2016. The Chants hosted a regional last year that was won by Washington.
“We’re just playing for each other, that’s all,” senior outfielder Kieton Rivers said. “We’re trying to have fun, trying to enjoy the last little bit of time that we have together, but hopefully we can make a nice run.”
Coastal won the Sun Belt Conference tournament to earn an automatic regional berth with a 9-7 win over Georgia Southern in the championship game Sunday at Springs Brooks Stadium.
The Chants came through the loser’s bracket after dropping their conference tournament opener 9-8 in extra innings against Texas-Arlington on Wednesday, which dropped them to 12-20 over their past 32 games.
They then ran off five wins in four days through oppressive heat to capture their second consecutive Sun Belt tournament title, overcoming three deficits of at least five runs in the process.
“We always had it in us, we just clicked at the right time,” Rivers said. “We found a way, we never gave up and we never quit.”
Auburn is making its third straight regional appearance, the most since the Tigers went to seven consecutive tournaments from 1997-2003.
Though Auburn is just eight games over .500, its record is deceiving. The Tigers finished 19th in the country in RPI after playing 29 games against Top 25 RPI teams this season.
Coastal has one of the top offenses in the nation with a .309 team batting average, 87 home runs and 124 doubles. The Chants set several Sun Belt Conference tournament offensive records this past week, including the most runs (80), most hits (90) and most home runs (18) in a tournament, and most runs (26) in a game.
But Coastal’s 5.50 team earned-run average was ninth in the Sun Belt this season and its .962 fielding percentage was 10th.
Auburn doesn’t have a prolific offense but is good on the mound and defensively.
The Tigers have a team batting average of .260 with 41 home runs and 98 doubles. Conor Davis leads the team with a .290 average and has six home runs with 32 RBI.
Shortstop Will Holland leads the team in home runs with nine while Edouard Julien has eight home runs and a team-high 48 RBI.
The Tigers have a team ERA of 4.53 and sophomore lefthanded pitcher Jack Owen (4-2, 2.29 ERA) pitched well in the SEC Tournament.
Sophomore righthander Tanner Burns (4-3, 2.80) is expected to be back in the starting rotation for the regional after missing the SEC Tournament because of a sore shoulder, according to a 247sports.com article.
“Their pitching and defense is going to be really good for them, and their timely hitting,” said CCU senior first baseman Zach Biermann, who played against several Auburn players last summer. “It’s going to be a tough test but we’re ready.
“. . . We’re happy to get in and we’re ready to make some noise and see what happens.”
The CCU-Auburn winner would likely face Georgia Tech in the winner’s bracket. The Yellow Jackets are 24-9 at home this season and won three games in the ACC tournament in Durham, N.C., before falling 10-2 to North Carolina in the ACC championship game Sunday.
Coastal last played in a regional at Georgia Tech in 2002, the year the Yellow Jackets’ Russ Chandler Stadium opened, and last played at Georgia Tech in 2016, when it was swept in a three-game series in late April before embarking on its run to the national title.
“It’s a hitter’s park. They’ve hit us a bunch and we’ve hit them,” CCU coach Gary Gilmore said. “Even though the park is bigger, the wind tends to blow out consistently into left- and right-center field, almost straight out. It plays very similar to our park even though it has a bigger depth.”
Tickets are available through the regional tournament page or by calling the Georgia Tech ticket office at 1-888-832-4849. All-session chairback seats are $72 and all-session reserved bench seats are $60. Single session tickets will go on sale Thursday, if available.