After a pregame ceremony to honor the team’s seniors and an emotional on-field speech from baseball coach Gary Gilmore as he rattled off the players’ nicknames and said he can’t imagine not having them in the program next year, Coastal Carolina’s veteran leaders helped put on quite a show for all in attendance Saturday.
The No. 22-ranked Chanticleers sent 13 batters to the plate in the first inning while scoring seven quick runs and kept piling on from there on the way to a 23-4 win over Campbell in their regular-season finale before a crowd of 1,782 at Springs Brooks Stadium.
The Chants (40-15, 21-3 Big South) set a program single-game record with seven home runs and collected a season-high 20 hits while scoring their most runs since putting up 24 in a 2010 game against Gardner-Webb, all in just six offensive innings as the teams mutually decided to end the game after the top of the seventh.
It was simply an emphatically impressive performance – to pick out just a few of the relevant adjectives – in the program’s final regular-season Big South game ever.
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“It was just special for me that they could have their day. This was their day, and for all of them to have success is incredible,” Gilmore said of his seniors. “And when you look at the group over the three games this weekend, they’re the difference in where we are at the end of the weekend and where we possibly would have been without them. It’s a stark reality that stares me in the face every night when I go to bed and every morning when I wake up that all those names won’t be here next year. That will be a tough one. They’ve left a great legacy here.”
Sophomore Seth Lancaster actually led the way going 4-for-5 with his sixth homer of the season and six RBIs, but there was no shortage of gaudy stat lines on this day. Senior Connor Owings was 3-for-3 with his 15th homer, three walks, three runs scored and four RBIs; junior Michael Paez was 3-for-5 with his 12th and 13th homers, three runs and four RBIs; senior Zach Remillard was 2-for-6 with his team-leading 16th homer, two runs and three RBIs; junior G.K. Young was 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs; senior Tyler Chadwick was 1-for-3 with his seventh homer, three runs and three RBIs; sophomore Billy Cooke was 3-for-3 with three runs; and senior David Parrett clubbed his second homer of the season.
We fought back last night and that group of kids did not want to have senior day and lose. They’ve been a very unique group. When they collectively as a unit lock in mentally and are really focused together, it’s pretty a darn good offense, it really is. That may have been the longest seven innings I’ve ever spent in my life. ... That’s offensive group is special and they’ve been special all year.
CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore
The Chants scored in all six innings they came to the plate, including an eight-run fourth, while winning their sixth straight game, reaching the 40-win mark for the first time since 2012 and adding to the momentum they will take into the Big South tournament next week in Lexington.
Of course, they’re hoping to return home and host an NCAA Regional after that, but either way, Saturday was a special sendoff of sorts.
“From the beginning it was an emotional day,” Owings said. “We all love this program and we’ve poured our hearts and souls into it, just like everyone in that locker room, and it was just a great day to go out there and be able to get a big win for us and finish off the season on a good note heading into the tournament.”
Said Remillard: “It’s pretty awesome, honestly. I’ve never been part of a game like that. Going into the ceremonies and stuff it kind of felt like an emotional and special day. A lot of guys, like Gilley said, battled a lot of tough things and overcame some adversity, and it was really, really, really fun to watch a lot of guys show up today and play really well.”
Fans filed into the ballpark early as Coastal Carolina paid tribute to its nine seniors with university president David DeCenzo and provost J. Ralph Byington partaking in a graduation-like ceremony in addition to the traditional senior day presentation. The Chants also recognized stadium benefactor Tami Springs Brooks and her family in a stadium commemoration ceremony.
And after the pomp and circumstance came the fireworks.
Remillard started the scoring barrage with an RBI single, Young followed with an RBI single, Chadwick blasted a three-run homer to left-center and the Chants plated two more runs in that opening inning when Paez was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Owings walked with the bags full to make it 7-0.
Lancaster added an RBI single in the second, Owings launched a solo homer in the third to temporarily tie Remillard and Young for the team lead with 15 this season, and in the fourth the Chants really broke the game open.
Lancaster smacked a three-run homer, Parrett followed immediately with a solo shot and two batters later Paez added a solo homer of his own. Young tacked on an RBI single later in the inning and Lancaster dropped in a two-run single to give him five RBIs in the frame.
The camaraderie on this team is one of the best I’ve ever had – this one and probably the 2010 team, the internal portion of that is about as good as it can get.
Owings added a two-run single in the fifth, Paez homered again in the sixth and after hitting a long foul ball in a previous inning Remillard joined the party with a two-run homer to reclaim the team lead. His 16 homers this season are the most by a Chant since Jose Iglesias’ 16 in 2010 and tie him for 10th on the program’s single-season list.
“I was definitely happy to join the party. I definitely was talking to CO before that one, I told him I was either going to strike out there or try to get one out of the yard since we were all tied at 15,” Remillard said. “I mean, those are just numbers. We’re just having fun. A little friendly competition sometimes never hurts.”
The previous team record for home runs in a game was six, which had been matched previously this season.
“We woke up, walked onto the field and saw the wind blowing out,” Chadwick said with a smile. “That’s the first thing we look at every day when we get to the field, but it was nice – it was just nice to put some good swings on the bat from everybody. We knew we were going to have a lot of energy today with everything going on and it was just nice to use that the right way and get it going early and often.”
In the later innings Gilmore removed the seniors from the game one by one while the Chants were in the field so they could soak in the applause of the crowd – a well-earned recognition for an accomplished group.
“It’s a very, very, very special group of men,” Gilmore said. “Virtually every one of them has been through something that’s been career-challenging or virtual career-ending injury or personal confrontation, tragedy, all kinds of things. It’s unbelievable, and their resiliency to hang in there and keep fighting, and honestly their loyalty to each other is incredible. The camaraderie on this team is one of the best I’ve ever had – this one and probably the 2010 team, the internal portion of that is about as good as it can get.”