Coach Gary Gilmore let out a little chuckle when asked if he appreciated his Coastal Carolina baseball team not leaving all the drama for the late innings Friday.
“Ha. I think it was the first time in the ninth inning obviously since we’ve been here that you could actually breathe for a hitter or two,” he said.
The top-seeded Chanticleers had plenty of breathing room in their Big South tournament semifinal, cruising to a 5-1 win over No. 3 Longwood at Lexington County Baseball Stadium to earn a spot in the conference championship game Saturday against No. 7 Liberty.
The Chants (43-15) have won nine straight games, 12 or their last 13 and now have their most wins since the program’s memorable run to the 2010 NCAA super regionals.
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“It’s a great position to be in right now,” Gilmore said. “I still think we have our best game yet to play. I don’t think we’ve come close to hitting on all cylinders. We’ve had different people step up and get the job done. [Zack] Hopeck was outstanding today and Mr. [Zach] Remillard here has been great all three games. He’s been fantastic and picked up some huge hits for us. Hopefully all the guys who helped get us here, we can get all them on track hopefully by tomorrow.”
Remillard clubbed his league-leading 18th home run of the season and finished 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs, Seth Lancaster was 2-for-4 with his seventh homer and two RBIs and Hopeck was outstanding on the mound.
The sophomore right-hander has excelled down the stretch of this season, and on Friday he went 5 1/3 innings while allowing only one run on four hits and no walks to improve his record to 3-2 and drop his earned-run average to 3.15.
“To be honest I didn’t really have my best stuff. It was kind of frustrating at times, but I did the best with what I had, tried to execute as much as I could and just give us a chance,” he said.
Unlike in their first two games of this Big South tournament – which included breaking a tie in the bottom of the eighth inning against Radford on Tuesday and squeaking out a one-run win over Gardner-Webb after a tense ninth inning Wednesday – Coastal Carolina struck first and never trailed in this one.
Remillard made it 1-0 in the bottom of the first with a two-out RBI single, Tyler Chadwick made it 2-0 in the third with an RBI ground rule double to left and Lancaster followed two batters later with an RBI single up the middle for a 3-0 lead.
It’s a great position to be in right now. I still think we have our best game yet to play. I don’t think we’ve come close to hitting on all cylinders. We’ve had different people step up and get the job done. [Zack] Hopeck was outstanding today and Mr. [Zach] Remillard here has been great all three games. He’s been fantastic and picked up some huge hits for us. Hopefully all the guys who helped get us here, we can get all them on track hopefully by tomorrow.
CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore
Longwood (32-27) got its only run in the top of the fourth on a solo homer from Connar Bastaich, and Coastal Carolina then stretched its lead back out when Lancaster clobbered a homer off the scoreboard in right-center in the sixth and Remillard lined his second homer of the tournament to right in the seventh.
Meanwhile, reliever Bobby Holmes helped keep the Lancers from mounting a comeback while throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, allowing only one hit.
If it wasn’t already clear the game was going the Chants’ way, there was another reminder as Holmes replaced Hopeck on the mound. He took over in the sixth with a runner on second and one out and got Bastaich to hit a grounder to third. Remillard’s throw to first sailed high, though, and the runners took off again. The ball caromed right back to Chadwick at first, though, and he fired to second to nab Bastaich. Holmes then got Alex Lewis to fly out to deep left to end that threat.
That’s the last time the Lancers made any noise in the game.
As for Remillard, he’s been the Chants’ MVP so far in this tournament, batting .545 with two homers, six RBIs and four runs.
“Individually it’s great, but we still have to take strides as a team,” he said. “We’ve been pretty spot on all season with our offense and we’ve had a lot of guys step up all year, and we’ve got some new guys stepping up right now. We’ve got a couple bats that aren’t really hitting the way they normally do, but there’s nothing to worry about. Those guys are great and we’re just getting excited for the next game.”
Big South Baseball Championship Game
Who: No. 1 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 7 Liberty
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Lexington County Baseball Stadium, Lexington
Radio: WSEA-FM 100.3