A day after struggling to get anything out of its usually dependable lineup, the Coastal Carolina baseball team had no such troubles Saturday.
Senior Zach Remillard set the tone early with a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning and the Chanticleers piled up 11 hits overall on the way to a 10-4 win over Illinois before a crowd of 1,516 at Springs Brooks Stadium.
Once again, the Chants (8-7) pushed themselves above. 500 in the win-loss ledger and bounced back nicely after managing only four hits Friday in a 4-2 loss to UNC Greensboro.
“Today we were a little bit more locked in to playing and competing,” Chants coach Gary Gilmore said. “You know, we’ve just got to keep trying to get better. Today is obviously not the answer totally, but it was a way better effort on our part. The young man we faced today, he had two great starts and [is] a very good left-handed pitcher, so I was very pleased with what we were able to do.”
Coastal Carolina made a long day for Illinois lefty Doug Hayes (2-2), who entered the day with a 2.65 earned-run average before giving up eight hits, three walks and seven runs (five earned) over five innings to take the loss.
Senior Connor Owings finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored, junior Michael Paez was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run, sophomore Billy Cooke was 2-for-4 with an RBI, Remillard went 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI and senior David Parrett managed three RBIs despite officially going 0-for-1 at the plate.
“Being the offense we are we expect a lot out of ourselves, but I think we had a great day,” Remillard said. “You’re going to go through times where you have a little bit of a down day, so it’s good to rebound and have a great one.”
Remillard’s homer to left in the first inning was his team-leading sixth of the season in just 15 games, already matching his career-high set in 59 games last year. In addition to the homers, he leads the team with a .367 batting average and 13 runs scored while ranking second with 14 RBIs.
He also has a team-high 21 strikeouts, but that’s something the Chants can live with the way he’s producing overall.
“He’s worked on a lot of stuff. He and coach [Kevin] Schnall and coach [Matt] Schilling have worked real hard. He’s more on time than he’s been in the past and just able to get into decent counts to hit,” Gilmore said. “He’s one of those guys – we’ve had a handful of them in their career here – that strike out a bunch, but if they put the ball in play on the barrel it’s amazing how many hits they get.”
It’s still early, but for what it’s worth, Remillard is on pace for 22 homers in the regular season.
“That’s great. Ultimately it’s about the team, driving in runs and trying to help score,” he said of his strong start. “Personal goals are great at all, but at the end of the day winning ballgames is the biggest aspect.”
After his solo homer in the first, it remained a 1-0 game until the Chants put up four runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Sophomore Kevin Woodall Jr. led off that frame with a walk, Owings singled to left and freshman Cameron Pearcey reached on an infield single to load the bases. Parrett followed with an RBI sacrifice fly, two batters later Paez smacked an RBI single off the pitcher, Cooke followed with an RBI single to right-center and then later got himself in a rundown to allow Paez to score to make it 5-0.
Illinois (6-6) got three runs back in the top of the fifth inning, but Coastal Carolina added two more in the fifth – aided by three Illini errors – and three in the seventh to make it 10-4.
Illinois had the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the eighth against sophomore reliever Bobby Holmes, but after a coaching visit to the mound he responded with back-to-back strikeouts of Michael Hurwitz and Adam Walton – both looking – and then got Dan Rowbottom to hit into an inning-ending groundout.
And in the ninth, freshman Austin Kitchen worked out of a bases-loaded one-out jam by striking out David Craan and Tyler Engel – both looking – to end the game.
You know, we’ve just got to keep trying to get better. Today is obviously not the answer totally, but it was a way better effort on our part. The young man we faced today, he had two great starts and [is] a very good left-handed pitcher, so I was very pleased with what we were able to do.
CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore
Holmes (1-1) got the win while giving up four hits, four walks and one run over 3 1/3 innings, tallying a career-high seven strikeouts in the process.
Meanwhile, junior Cole Schaefer got another no-decision while giving up four hits, two walks and three runs (two earned) over 4 2/3 innings, after throwing four scoreless frames to start the game. Gilmore thought with a little better defense, the righty could have gotten through that inning and pitched even deeper into the game.
Overall, Schaefer has a 5.00 ERA in four starts due mostly to a few big innings against him, but he’s been a pleasant surprise overall for the Chants after putting up a 12.38 ERA in only eight innings last year.
“If he can do that, throw strikes and not get hurt by big innings, he’ll be a great innings eater for us and give us a chance to compete and win,” Gilmore said.
Schaefer credits his improvement to increased velocity on his fastball – which is up from the 85-88 mile-per-hour range he hit last year to 88-91 now – and the addition of a cut slider to his arsenal.
“Obviously last year was a rollercoaster, kind of tough to deal with, but like [pitching coach Drew] Thomas told me at the beginning of the year, he said, ‘You can either dwell on that or just come out and be a new guy,’” Schaefer said. “Honestly for me, last year was tough so I didn’t want to deal with that ever again, so this offseason was a tough one for me. [I] just kept grinding, and this year I’m very pleased with how everything’s been going.”
The Chants close out the weekend with a double-header Sunday against Illinois and UNC Greensboro. Senior righty Tyler Poole (2-1, 2.25 ERA) is expected to start the first game while junior righty Alex Cunningham (1-1, 7.88) goes in the second game.
Who | Illinois at Coastal Carolina
Where | Springs Brooks Stadium, Conway
When | 10:30 a.m.
Radio | WSEA-FM 100.3
Who | UNC Greensboro at Coastal Carolina
Where | Springs Brooks Stadium
When | 3 p.m.
Radio | WSEA-FM 100.3