The two seven-game winning streaks in the last month and the 14 wins in the last 15 games overall were plenty impressive already.
But this whole midseason surge by the Coastal Carolina baseball team looks even better after Tuesday night.
The No. 25-ranked Chanticleers scored four runs with two outs in the top of the first inning and went on to a 6-3 win at No. 16 North Carolina before a crowd of 1,789 at Boshamer Stadium.
The now eight-game winning streak is a season-best for the Chants (28-10) and, more importantly, they score another marquee win to boost their profile for the national polls and, ultimately, with the committee that will seed the NCAA regionals.
“Beating them is a huge win. I respect the crap out of that team right there,” designated hitter G.K. Young said. “They’re very good and, I mean, [they’re] North Carolina. To come in here and get a win, that’s huge. Yeah, that makes it a whole lot better.”
Said right fielder Connor Owings: “Huge win. It’s a resume builder for us at the end of the year, a huge road win for us.”
Coastal Carolina, which returned to the Baseball America rankings this week at No. 25 and is ranked as high as No. 16 by PerfectGame.org, picked up its third win in the last four tries against North Carolina (25-12) while making a quick night for normally stingy Tar Heels left-hander Hunter Williams.
Williams, who took a 3-0 record and 0.99 earned-run average into this game, lasted only 2.1 innings while giving up seven hits, a walk and six earned runs.
Not surprisingly, the first damage was delivered by Owings.
The Chants’ senior slugger stretched his hitting streak to 17 games while going 2-for-5 and helping seize the early momentum with a two-out two-run triple to right in the first inning to gave the visitors a quick lead.
Billy Cooke followed with an RBI single to left and Tyler Chadwick added an RBI double to continue the two-out rally as the Chants went ahead 4-0 in the opening frame.
Owings is now batting .492 (30-for-61) with 18 RBIs over his 17-game streak and is closing in on the longest hitting streak on record in program history, a 20-game run by Mike Costanzo in 2005.
“I think it kind of just let a lot of people relax,” Owings said of his two-out triple. “We had big opportunities early on and we just cashed in, so I think it just let everybody settle in and really got us going.”
After giving back one run in the bottom of the second, the Chants stretched their lead to 6-1 in the top of the third. Young opened the inning by crushing a double to centerfield, Zach Remillard followed with a single and two batters later Cooke laced an RBI single over the second baseman.
Williams (3-1) then plunked Chadwick and was pulled from the game. He’d get charged with another earned run when Seth Lancaster drew a two-out bases-loaded walk from reliever Brett Daniels.
“The kids got pitches to hit and they hit them. Obviously it wasn’t [Williams’] best day, but I think a lot of that had to do with us too,” Chants coach Gary Gilmore said. “Our numbers against left-handed guys is pretty good, even with all the left-handed hitters.”
The Chants wouldn’t score again – and left the bases loaded that inning, left two runners in scoring position in the fourth and left the bases loaded again in the ninth while totaling 12 left on base for the game – but they already had all the runs they would need.
Sophomore right-hander Zack Hopeck gave Coastal Carolina a solid start, allowing six hits, no walks and two runs (one earned) over 4 1/3 innings.
Freshman lefty Austin Kitchen took over with runners on first and second and one out in the fifth and got two quick outs to end the threat.
He allowed a run in the bottom of the sixth, but that was all he gave up over three innings while allowing two hits and a walk and ultimately earning the win to improve to 3-0.
And senior closer Mike Morrison did the rest, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings with no hits allowed and only one walk for his fifth save.
Morrison has not allowed an earned run in his last 32 innings.
Meanwhile, Zack Gahagan led the Tar Heels while going 2-for-3 with three RBIs, including a solo homer in the sixth.
“If we can get five or six innings out of our starters, you can manage that bullpen,” Gilmore said, pleased with the collective effort on the mound. “Kitchen did a good job. It wasn’t the best stuff I’ve seen him have, but he got through it and did a good job. And Morrison has been one of the best closers in the country all year long.”
The win over the Tar Heels was significant, but it’s just the start to a big week as Coastal Carolina hosts College of Charleston on Wednesday night and a three-game series with Big South contender High Point this weekend.
“I think it gives us great confidence that we can go on the road, win in the mid-week – something that we haven’t had a ton of success with so far,” Gilmore said. “We did some good things, and I was really proud of the kids. They made plays when they had to.”
Added Morrison: “It’s just another game for us. It was a big RPI win, obviously. We heard about that. We’ve been winning a bunch of games, but we didn’t have any quality ones [over strong RPI opponents] so it’s good to come in here, it’s a pretty hostile environment, and get a win.”
The rest of the week is just as big, though.
College of Charleston has already taken two out of three games from the Chants this season. Gilmore wasn’t sure yet who would pitch in that game, but he and the players emphasized that it’s just as important as the one they won Tuesday night.
“We’re going to talk about it going home. We’ll see. We’re going to do whatever we have to do to win tomorrow.”
Who | College of Charleston at No. 25 Coastal Carolina
Where | Springs Brooks Stadium, Conway
When | 6 p.m. Wednesday
Radio | WSEA-FM 100.3