As if the production senior third baseman Zach Remillard contributed during the regular-season wasn’t impressive enough, he’s taken the leading role so far this week in helping put Coastal Carolina in the Big South championship game Saturday.
Through three tournament games so far Remillard is batting .545 (6-for-11) with two home runs, six RBIs and four runs scored, and he continues to climb the Chanticleer record lists with one of the best offensive seasons in program history.
Whether he’s taken the time to notice or not.
“I don’t pay attention to that,” Remillard said after going 3-for-4 with another home run in the Chants’ 5-1 win over Longwood on Friday. “The biggest thing in my eyes is winning a championship tomorrow, taking it a pitch at a time. Individual accomplishments are great, but I care about this team.”
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The Chants’ prolific offense – one that now ranks second in NCAA Division I with 88 total home runs – hasn’t been quite as imposing this week as it’s been at other times this season, but Remillard has made sure that hasn’t mattered.
He’s had a bunch of guys around him and all of them have picked each other up all year long, and right now he’s the guy picking us up. Hopefully we can get a couple other guys around him tomorrow so hopefully we can find a way to have a little fun.
CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore
He gave Coastal Carolina a 1-0 lead in the first inning of its semifinal game Friday with a two-out RBI single and later capped the scoring in the seventh with his 18th homer of the season.
That ties him for seventh on the Chants’ single-season home run list with David Sappelt (2008) and Jeremy Samatas (1998). He needs just one more to move into a tie for fifth and is closing in on John Rigos’ program record of 22 homers in a season (set in 1983).
His team-leading 65 RBIs, meanwhile, are one short of tying for 10th on the single-season list, and he’s now second on the team this season with a .354 batting average.
“He’s one of the ones I don’t ever have to worry about him being locked in,” coach Gary Gilmore said. “He’ll get frustrated with himself every now and then, but one thing he’s been able to do this year that he wasn’t able to do consistently in the past is he can have one of those at-bats you just shake your head at and say, ‘What was he doing?’, and the next time he comes up, makes adjustments and has a quality at-bat. …
“He’s had a bunch of guys around him and all of them have picked each other up all year long, and right now he’s the guy picking us up. Hopefully we can get a couple other guys around him tomorrow so hopefully we can find a way to have a little fun.”
Hopeck locked in for Chants
Sophomore right-hander Zack Hopeck allowed only one run on four hits and no walks in 5 1/3 innings Friday to improve to 3-2 for the season and lower his earned-run average to 3.15.
That ERA is front-loaded, though, as Hopeck has been phenomenal for the better part of the last two months.
He’s now allowed one earned run or fewer in each of his last four starts while his last two outings (including six scoreless innings last week against UNC Wilmington) have been his longest of the season.
“I think it’s a huge self-confidence booster, a lot more self trust,” he said Friday. “Like I said, I just wanted to go out and compete and give us a chance.”
Championship game matchup
The top-seeded Chants have already won the program’s first Big South regular-season title since 2012 and are now looking to add their first tournament title since that same season as they take on No. 7 Liberty (31-27).
It’s not clear yet who the Chants will start on the mound. Asked if Alex Cunningham (8-3, 3.87 ERA), who pitched the tournament opener Tuesday, would be available, Gilmore seemed to indicate that he didn’t want to tax the junior right-hander at the risk of his effectiveness in the NCAA regionals next week.
Another option would be freshman right-hander Jason Bilous, who has made three starts this month with mix results. He has a 2-1 record and 4.59 ERA overall this season.
“We’re going to talk about a bunch of different things when we get back tonight and just see who we play and what we’re going to do,” Gilmore said after the Chants’ win in the early game Friday. “Obviously it’s one game [winner-take-all]. I don’t want to jeopardize next weekend to win this tournament, but we want to win this tournament. We’re going to do everything we can, but I don’t want to do anything that’s going to cost us a Friday night or Friday afternoon game in a regional somewhere because we tried to win this. That’s not a smart move on our part, but if [Cunningham] can give us something and it’s not detrimental to next weekend definitely he’ll get a chance to pitch.”
Regardless, the Chants should have a fresher pitching staff than Liberty, which used four pitchers in a wild 11-10 win over Radford in the other semifinal.
The Flames squandered an 8-0 lead and were tied 10-10 entering the bottom of the eighth before Payton Scarbrough plated the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly.
Radford then had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth and Colby Higgerson ripped a line drive back up the middle, but pitcher Eric Grabowski – who started the game at third base and also had six RBIs in the win – got his glove up in time to knock the ball down and was able to pick it up and toss to first for the final out.
They’re trying to get a host bid for the regional and they’re deserving of one whether we beat them tomorrow or not. We did not play well against them at our place, and they played really well. They’re a really good team. But it’s starting 0-0 tomorrow.
Liberty baseball coach Jim Toman
Liberty coach Jim Toman said he’ll use whatever pitchers he has to Saturday, starting with freshman right hander Jack DeGroat (4-3, 4.39 ERA). The rookie threw 122 pitches Tuesday while allowing just one hit over seven innings against High Point.
“In a championship game like that I’ll have pitchers begging me to pitch, and whoever tells me they want to pitch, if they’re next in line, we’ll roll them out there,” Toman said. “We’re not going to save any arms.”
When the Flames last played the Chants earlier this month in Lynchburg, Va., it didn’t seem to matter who they put on the mound as Coastal Carolina scored 43 runs in a three-game sweep. DeGroat gave up five runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks in just 1 1/3 innings in the finale of that series.
It’s also fitting, meanwhile, that the Chants’ last game in the Big South comes against their biggest rivals.
“Well they’ve been the best team in our league for a while. There was a couple of years where we might win it, win the tournament or win the overall, but they’ve had a great year,” Toman said. “… They’re trying to get a host bid for the regional and they’re deserving of one whether we beat them tomorrow or not. We did not play well against them at our place, and they played really well. They’re a really good team. But it’s starting 0-0 tomorrow.”