CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Coastal Carolina's baseball team has a second chance on the season and a second chance in the state of Virginia.
Last week, the Chants bowed out of the Big South Conference Tournament with back-to-back losses to host and rival Liberty. This weekend, Coastal Carolina will travel to the Blacksburg Regional and will open against Oklahoma on Friday at 1pm.
Head Coach Gary Gilmore will be taking Coastal Carolina to their 12th regional appearance in the last 13-seasons and seventh straight. Gilmore expects to see Oklahoma's ace pitcher, Jonathan Gray, who is ranked as the number one draft prospect by Baseball America.
Gray threw a complete, three-hit shutout against Baylor last time out and was named the Big XII Tournament's most outstanding player last week.
“We're going to see Gray who is probably the number one draft pick in the country,” Gilmore said. “The Dodgers scouting director is a good friend of mine and he gave me a glowing report of what we're getting ready to face. You come into this program and want to play professional baseball, those are the kind of guys you are going to face.”
Coastal Carolina hitters say they will be ready for the challenge of facing a major league caliber pitcher.
“With a guy like that, you can't swing as hard,” designated hitter Ted Blackman said. “You just let him generate all the power and put the ball in play and see if they make errors behind him.”
Gilmore said he will start Tyler Herb on Friday against Oklahoma based on the Sooners having six right handed bats in the lineup. Herb, who missed five weeks of the season with an injury, pitched six shutout innings in a Big South Tournament win over Longwood last week.
“He didn't have great velocity, but threw a lot of strikes,” Gilmore said. “He sunk the ball and if we can keep the ball on that turf. That ball will fly if it gets up in the air.”
Starting catcher Will Remillard did not make the trip to Blacksburg because of a back injury. Remillard traveled back home to New York to see a specialist. Remillard started 51 games this season with a team leading 39 RBI.
Ben Smith will get the Saturday start and will match-up with either Virginia Tech or Connecticut in the second game.
Coastal Carolina has won at least one game in each of the last seven regional appearances. This will be the first ever match-up with Oklahoma, but the Chants are familiar with the other two teams in the regional. The Chanticleers have a 6-3 overall record against the host team, Virginia Tech and are 2-1 all time against the four-seed, Connecticut.
Why Coastal Carolina is Dangerous?
Coastal Carolina will enter the Blacksburg Regional under the radar. The Chanticleers received one of the final at-large NCAA bids and don't have the appealing national storylines like the rest of their regional opponents, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Connecticut.
The Hokies are hosting a regional for the first time in school history after an impressive run to the ACC Tournament Championship game. Oklahoma won the Big XII tournament and, along with Gray, have another top-tier pitcher in Dillon Overton. Connecticut got hot at the right time and won the Big East tournament.
“I hope they all think we are beyond capable of winning it,” Gilmore said.
“Let us get overlooked,” Blackman said. “I know we are the underdogs. We're going to come in there and try to make a lot of noise.”
Coastal Carolina Consistency
Coastal Carolina won their final four weekend series' of the season and took the first two games of the conference tournament.
But against Liberty in the Big South Tournament, the Chants fell behind 9-0 (eventually losing 9-8) and lost the elimination game 8-0. Getting the bats and team to be focused on a consistent basis is an issue that Coastal Carolina is keeping on the forefront of their mind.
“Consistency is really important in baseball,” outfielder Jacob May said. “Each game is really important and we have to win each of them. It's not only game by game but inning by inning. We have to win the inning.”
Oklahoma is a team with postseason experience. The Sooners won their Charlottesville Regional in 2012 but was swept by South Carolina in the Super Regionals.
The pitching staff of Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton have gained all the headlines—and for good reason.
Gray is 9-2 with a team leading 1.55 ERA. He has struck out 127 batters in 110.0 innings while only walking 21. Overton is also 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA. Opponents have a .251 batting average against Overtone while Gray's opponents are hitting .181 against him.
Jacob Evans is the Sooners closer, He has pitched in 27-games and recorded nine saves with a 1.87 ERA. Evans pitched 5.0 innings and gave up just one run in relief to pick up the win over Kansas in the Big XII Tournament Championship game.
Before running off four straight to win the Big XII Tournament title, Oklahoma had lost nine of their last twelve games including three straight weekend series.
Who: No. 3 Coastal Carolina (37-21) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma (40-19)
Where: Blacksburg, VA
When: Friday, 1pm