One of the biggest stories of the first half of the season has been Coastal Carolina’s domination of tobacco country. The Chanticleers have been sitting most of the season inside Boyd Nation’s top eight spots in the RPI, meaning they’re worthy of national seeding – so long as their schedule doesn’t drag them down from here on out.¬†
I got the chance to catch the Chants on Wednesday night as they made quick work of North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium.¬†
WHAT I SAW AT BOSHAMER STADIUM ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT.
Coastal had the look of a confident team. They played sharp in the field, pitched well on the mound and absolutely looked monstrous at the plate. The biggest thing was that they made this one a snoozer from early on, pasting the big brother Tarheels and extending their winning streak to nine games.¬†
Coastal- 403 310 100- ¬†12¬† 10¬† 0¬†
U.N.C. – 000 300 001 – 4¬† 10¬† 2
WP: Austin Fleet (4-1)
LP: Jimmy Messer (1-1)
- Adam Rice, 4-for-4, HR, 2RBI
- Daniel Bowman, 2-for-5, HR, 2RBI
- Rico Noel, 2-for-4, 2RBI
- Scott Woodward, 1-for-4, HR, 2RBI
- Ben Bunting, 2-for-3
- Levi Michael, 1-for-3, RBI
- Jesse Wierzbicki, 1-for-3, RBI
Any mystery that this one had going into the night flew out the window faster than a dealer in a police house raid.¬†
Coastal took about 16 pitches to impose its will and establish a mindset that this was not only going to be their night, but that this is going to be their year in college baseball in the Carolinas.¬†
Earlier in the week, during UNC coach Mike Fox’s live weekly radio show, the Tarheel mentor mentioned that his starter, Jimmy Messer, had to locate his pitches well and that “we’ll know quickly whether he’s on or not.” Unfortunately, tonight the answer was obvious. He wasn’t on.
Rico Noel and Scott Woodward, the first two batters in the order, induced walks to start the game, then No. 3 hitter Jose Iglesias bunted them over into scoring position. Four-hole hitter Tommy La Stella knocked them both in with a blue streak up the middle, quickly making it 2-0. Two pitches later, Adam Rice deposited another non-located Messer offering over the right field wall, giving CCU a 4-0 lead.¬†
That set the tone in no time flat.¬†
Not a lot of mystery from there. The Chants went on to score three runs in both the 3rd and 4th innings making this one a boat race. Dan Bowman took the air out of the joint with a three-run bomb and Scott Woodward hit a two-run dong to put the game out of reach at 10-0 after three-and-a-half innings. In total, the Heels sent eight different pitchers to the mound in the game, giving up 10 hits and issuing a furrowed brow-inducing eight walks.¬†
On the hill, Coastal used three pitchers on the night, including team saves leader Austin Fleet, who came on in the 4th inning to relieve starter Matt Laney. Fleet ended up throwing 4.1 innings of 2-hit ball, including six strikeouts to pick up his 4th win of the season to go along with his five saves.¬†
CCU did not commit an error on the night.
COACH GILMORE IN POST-GAME MODE.
Had the chance to talk to Coastal Carolina head honcho Gary Gilmore after the win about his teams’ performance and the prospects for the rest of the season.
- On the confidence it fosters by going into an ACC park and getting a big win:
“It’s huge. Absolutely, no doubt about that. But not to take anything away from this game, lets be realistic, winning on a Wednesday is not like winning here on a Friday. I mean, we’ve got two guys (Anthony Meo and Cody Wheeler) that are going to be top two-or-three round draft picks, but we’ve gotta get it done against a (Matt) Harvey or (Alex) White… all you gotta do is walk through that Hall of Fame room up there and you’ll see all the guys that we’ve been trying to beat. That’s when we’ve gotta get it done.”
- On whether he considers his scorching-hot team to be hitting its stride now:
“We’ve woken up a little bit offensively. We’ve still got one or two stragglers that are still trying to get up to speed but we’re starting to score more runs, hit more home runs and doing some things that opens up our offense. Before it was three or four stragglers we were working with, so it’s coming around.”
- On the state of his pitching staff as the season has gone on:
“Pitching wise, we’ve been where we’ve been all year. Friday and Saturday nights we need strong starts from the two guys I’ve mentioned (Meo and Wheeler), but from there, man, it’s mix and match with about eight or nine guys that we run out there. It’s a very unique group that can give us different looks. If we can get to the 5th or 6th inning of a game, then we can start to match you up like a big league team does. And really, that’s what’s been able to keep us competitive.”
- On his teams’ depth and what it means for a post-season run:
“Well this is the deepest team I’ve coached. But like any team, there are pieces that you can’t afford to lose. But it’s the deepest, most talented personnel that I’ve ever coached, especially on the pitcher’s mound. Before, if we had to use three or four guys in matchup situations, we’d end up burning through our staff in one day. Now, we can mix and match for a whole weekend. That’s the big difference.” ¬†
- Biggest difference from last year’s team to this year’s team:
“The pitching staff is just way better. Significantly better. At the top end we’ve got a big-time lefty and a big-time righty. In my mind, I think we’ve got the pieces of the puzzle in place that we really need from there. I suppose if there’s one thing we don’t have, it’s probably that gosh-awful, come-out-of-the-bullpen-in-the-9th-and-ball-game-over type of guy. We just don’t have that kind of guy.”¬†
- On the steady improvement of C Jose Iglesias and CF Rico Noel:
“Those are two of the hardest workers we’ve had here. No doubt about it. Jose has really come into his own here this spring. He’s always shown signs of being a solid bat but he’s broken down physically in the past. This year his strength is up and he’s been able to maintain that level. And his catching and receiving has come a million miles and he’s now a big time, clutch guy. And Rico is the hardest working, most committed kid. You should’ve seen him when he walked in… all he could do was run. He was a second baseman for a year and that may be where he ends up in pro ball, but now he’s the best defensive outfielder I’ve ever coached. To say that, in my career… I mean, we’ve had some pretty good ones so that’s saying a lot.”
- On the Big South Conference with Liberty and VMI playing so well:
“You look back a couple years ago and we had two or three years in a row where Winthrop was really good and we also had Birmingham-Southern in our league. At that time we had all three of us in the Top 50 of the RPI, with Winthrop and our team in the top 20. So I think it’s very similar this year to where it was back then. We were ranked as the 8th best league in the country at that time. But we dropped down to 19th or 20th. Then you look at where we’re at right now, we’re probably back up to 7th or 8th right now. Look at VMI, they’re playing out of their minds right now, last I heard they were beating the heck out of Virginia. So they’ll be a handful for us next week that’s for sure.”
TALKIN’ ‘BOUT THE WEEK.
Since I was in Vegas early in the week and then flew out East here now, I missed a day or two of action on the diamond and talking about it. So to make up for it, here’s a list of the cool happenings in college baseball this week that you might’ve missed.
TEN COOL THINGS IN COLLEGE BASEBALL ON TUESDAY.
Just in case you missed it, here are some of the top news and notes.
1- MIAMI UNIV. PULLS BIGGEST COMEBACK OF THE SEASON
The RedHawks scored eight runs in the bottom of the 9th to beat Xavier 12-11.
It started with an ominous sign as Miami shortstop Ryan Kaup led off the final frame by reaching on a dropped infield pop-up. Nine batters later Kaup was up to bat again, this time smacking a bleeder up the middle scoring Cory Klenke from 2nd base, setting off a wild celebration.
2- THE NEAR NO-HITTER.
Lamar’s Blake Ford came within a single out of a no-hitter, beating UT-Pan Am 10-0.
Talk about freakin’ frustrating. Ford’s lone hit surrendered was to Bronco pinch hitter Cesar Tovar, who had only four at-bats all season. Even worse?… Tovar’s hit was an infield single that tipped off of Ford’s glove. Arrrrrrrgh!
3- HOUSTON’S BIG BOMBER.
Austin Gracey hits three home runs in a 14-8 win at UT-San Antonio.
Gracey tied a school record with his three bombs and also gathered 7RBI to pace the Cougars to the win. On the hill, five UH pitchers also combined to strike out 14 Roadrunner batters in the contest.¬†
4- TCU’s “MUST-WIN” WIN IN FRONT OF RECORD CROWD.
The Horned Frogs beat Texas A&M 6-1.
As I mentioned in my weekly Baldcast, the Frogs are one of the better teams I’ve seen this season, but are stuck way down at No. 23 (or so) in the RPI. This win was one of the few remaining “wow factor” W’s left on the slate. Oh, and it came in front of a stadium-record crowd of 4,375 too. TCU turned three inning-ending double plays.¬†
5- THE DEPTH OF UCLA’S ARMS STAFF.
Today, six Bruin pitchers combined to hold UC Riverside to two hits in a 10-0 blanking. Garett Claypool got the win with 3.0 innings of 0-hit work with 5Ks. Altogether, the Bruin arms struck out 11 and walked just one – that was by Scott Griggs, who officially was saddled with buying the beer round for that one.
6- THE PITCHING OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE AND VANDERBILT.
Vandy wins an unlikely mid-week pitching duel 1-0.
These two teams have batting practice-like offenses, but somehow a group of mid-week pitchers for both teams came up huge as there were just nine hits in the game, three by Vandy. Ironically, it was a pair of wild pitches that helped score the ‘Dores lone run.¬†
7- FLORIDA STATE WINNING SERIES VS. FLORIDA
The ‘Noles won the game 3-2 and the season series 3-1.
You have to figure this was a huge boon to the Garnet and Gold’s RPI, beating a good UofF team for the third time this year. It was also in front of the biggest Howser Stadium crowd of the season as 6,526 saw the game, which was also the 8th biggest home crowd in the history of the program.
8- MEMPHIS ENDS THE BLUES.
The Tigers snap a 13-game losing streak to Ole Miss with 6-5 win.
It’s been a rather tepid 15-18 year for the Tigers so far, but tonight’s win at AutoZone Park was UM’s fourth win over a ranked opponent this season. The Tigers hadn’t beaten the Rebels since 2003 before tonight.¬†
9- THE RESILIENCY OF A PIG
Arkansas made a series of comebacks in the 4-3, 11-inning win over New Mexico.
The Hogs appeared sunk in slop, giving up two runs in top of the 10th inning. But they tied things back up with a pair of runs there and then won the game on a bases-loaded single by pinch-hitter Tom Hauskey an inning later.
10- TOP OF THE HILL, RUTGERS-STYLE
The longtime Scarlett Knight skipper Fred Hill earned his 850th win at RU today.
The Knights beat Fordham 7-3, which included a complete game effort from Dennis Hill, who sat down 11 straight at one point. Coach Hill goes for career victory 1,000 this weekend. More on that below.
TEN COOL THINGS IN COLLEGE BASEBALL ON WEDNESDAY.
Just in case you missed it, here are some news and notes of note.
1- THE MID-MAJORS VS. THE ACC.
What a crap day for the ranked ACC powers going up against mid-major schools (yes Georgia Tech, that excludes you since you beat a BCS team tonight). Damn. Here’s the carnage:
- VMI beat No. 1 Virginia, 12-3
- Jacksonville beat No. 8 Florida Stte, 10-8
- Coastal Carolina beat No. 21 North Carolina, 12-4
- Western Carolina beat No. 17 Clemson, 7-5
Only survivor of Washout Wednesday in the ACC was No. 14 Miami, who wasn’t having any of this upset crap – not on THEIR watch – as they went out and bombarded Florida Gulf Coast, 9-0. Speaking of…
2- MIAMI PITCHERS.
David Gutierrez, Eric Whaley and Daniel Miranda combined to one-hit FCG in a 9-0 win.
Gutierrez did most of the heavy lifting here, going 7.0 innings, striking out seven, walking none and not giving up a hit.¬†
3- THE BLUDGEONING JACKETS
Like Miami, Georgia Tech wasn’t screwin’ around, beating the stew out of Georgia 25-6.
It was the biggest margin of victory and the 25 runs was the most runs scored in the history of the 112-year rivalry between the two teams. Experienced vets Tony Plagman and Jeff Rowland each went 4-for-5 on the day.¬†
4- THE STREAKING HOGS.
Arkansas extends its season-high winning streak to eight eight with a 3-2 win over New Mexico.
It was the second straight one-run win over the Lobos, who really needed the wins for RPI purposes, and the Hogs leaned on Zack Cox once again, getting the go-ahead RBI from the stud 2Bman in the 6th inning.¬†
5- ALABAMA’S KINDRED SPIRIT.
(Groan. Bad pun.) Alabama’s David Kindred hit an inside-the-park home run as part of a 2-for-4, 4RBI night as Alabama won at No. 23 Southeastern Louisiana 10-5. And give general kudos to the Crimson Tide for not being an upset victim despite a raucous 2,108 fans crammed into Pat Kennelly Diamond, foaming at the mouth for an upset.¬†
6- CATAMOUNTS STAY UNBEATEN IN MIDWEEK PLAY
Western Carolina beats No. 17 Clemson 7-5, improving to 7-0 in midweek play on the season. Tyler Kirkpatrick hit a 7th-inning grand slam for the winning margin. Oh, and this was a huge win for Catamounts, who are sitting in the mid-30s in the RPI.¬†
7- MO. STATE DOWNS BIG BROTHER.
Missouri State beat Missouri 5-4 on Keenen Maddox’s jog-off home run.
Maddox hit two home runs on the night, including a solo shot in the 5th inning that broke up Mizzou starter Jeff Scardino’s no-hit bid. His second bomb was a two-run jobbie that ended the game.¬†
8- BYU’s IMPRESSIVE SWEEP.
The Cougars downed No 24 Kansas State for the second day in a row.
While their UNM cohorts couldn’t seal the deal against their ranked foes, the Cougars sealed their series the Wildcats with a 13-10 win. This could also be a real turning point for the Coogs, who reach the Mendoza Line with a 16-16 mark.¬†
9- UNC GREENSBORO AND DUKE.
Rare it is that you find a mid-week game that isn’t an ugly double-digit slugfest with inferior pitching wilting against the metal bats. But these two teams played a whale of a game fundamentally, as Duke won 1-0. The contest featured no walks, no errors, no multi-base hits and lasted just 1:53 in time.¬†
10- M.K. BOWER’S OPENING LINE.
The Rice Guru had a great line to open his write-up on the Owl’s 23-1 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, “When one’s reputation has been burnished by defensive might, admirable pluck and selfless adherence to the things that make a team thrive, nights like Wednesday are that much more easy to appreciate.”
He then went on to describe Jimmy Comerota’s 3-for-3, 6RBI night.¬†
THE TEN PLACES TO BE THIS WEEKEND.
In quick-strike fashion.
10- Washington at Cal
Yeah, I know, weird to see these two on here. But Cal is tied with Arizona State at 6-3 in the Pac 10 and Udub is quietly putting together a good season, sitting at No. 55 in the RPI. This will tell us if that’s legit or not.
9- Texas State at Southeastern Louisiana.
The top two in the Southland square off. Both come off frustrating midweek losses to Texas and Alabama (the BCS title boys) and will look for redemption. Oh and both sit solidly in the RPI too, at No. 35 and 42.¬†
8- Alabama at LSU.
Both teams sit on the cusp of No. 1 seed-land at Nos. 16 and 15, so this will be a big boost for the winner… and probably a small boost to the loser too. At 3-5 in their last eight, we wonder in unison, is Bama’s youth starting to show?
7- Ole Miss at South Carolina.
As stated in the Baldcast, the Rebels are an interesting lot here. They are now No. 44 in the RPI. So this is nearly a do-or-die weekend for them, right? Okay, maybe not THAT dire of a situation, but they can score big brownie points here if they get a win beyond Pomeranz.
6- VMI at Liberty.
They’ve got solid records (29-5 and 22-10 respectively) and RPIs at No. 50 and 62. The winner here officially moves on to become the biggest challenge for Coastal in the Big South.¬†
5- Ohio State at Michigan State.
If anyone is flying the flag for the Big 10 this year, it’s these two teams. So it’s obvious to say that the two best teams in the conference will square off in East Lansing this weekend.¬†
4- Rice at Central Florida
Surprisingly, this is the biggest series of the season so far in CUSA play. The Owls lead UCF by one game in the standings, but sit down at No. 31 in the RPI. But the Knights need to make a quantum leap since they are No. 84 right now.
3- Clemson at Georgia Tech.
Down at No. 20 in the RPI, this is Tech’s next big chance to climb. With a series win here, Clemson should get into national seeding discussion.
2- Texas A&M at/vs. Texas.
The best rivalry in the Big 12 plays its home-and-home here. If A&M is going to get into the No. 1 seeding discussion, here’s where they’ll have to start getting big wins.
1- Virginia Tech at Virginia.
The Gobblers have won weekends at Florida State and vs. Miami. As if that wasn’t pain enough, now they go to Charlottesville and then to Georgia Tech. Are we asking too much of these guys? And how are they just No. 45 in the RPI? (Rhetorical question, don’t answer)
South Florida (16-16, 8-1) at Rutgers (18-13, 7-2)
Louisville is for losers. Pitt is the pits. Villanova… Villa-NO-va. UConn? Pffft, c’mon!¬†
The two teams at the top of the Big East standings right now aren’t any of those guys. It’s the two teams that will meet in Piscataway this weekend. The Scarlet Knights have matched their 18-13 start from 2007, a year in which they won a school record 42 games. They’ll also be trying to give legendary head coach Fred Hill his 1,000th win as he stands at 998-651-9 going into the weekend. The Bulls with toss their experience-heavy pitching staff that flashes a 3.71 team ERA against the fence-pounding Rutgers lineup that hits .305 and already has 46 dingers on the season.¬†
ONE MORE OFF-THE-RADAR SERIES TO CATCH.
Monmouth (12-14, 6-6) at Wagner (13-13, 8-4).
Don’t let the records fool you, the battle for the Northeast Conference conference will (possibly) be settled here. Sure, it’s early, but these two were the pre-season favorites in the NEC and have had some high-point moments so far this season, despite battling the elements. Both teams have won five of their last six and appear to be gaining momentum. Hmmm… what else do you need to know. Well, how about this passage from an Email that Wagner SID Kevin Ross sent me:
“We lost to them in the first round last year in the NEC Tournament, highlighted by one of the most bizarre plays I have ever seen. We had the bags packed with no outs and our centerfielder Damian Csakai hits a drive into the gap off his best friend, former teammate and current Indian farmhand Brett Brach. The one umpire says the ball hits the ground. Our team clears the bases. Their outfielder throws the ball in touch second and first. Triple Play. So one umpire said it wasn’t caught and one says it was. The umps blew it and should have put the runners back on the bases and had one out. So you can tell we have a little bit of a rivalry.”
GOOD COLLEGE BASEBALL PROMO
Get Your Gunner Shades!
UC Santa Barbara has a unique promo video to entice more people to get to Cesar Uyesaka Stadium for this weekend’s series with Cal State Fullerton. They’re giving away “Gunnar Shades” named after Gaucho player Gunnar Terhune. Here’s the clip:
FIVE COOL THINGS ABOUT MY TRAVELING FROM LOS ANGELES TO RALEIGH.
In no particular order.
1- On the flight to D.C., the video entertainment included a documentary on the influence that blues musicians had on modern music.
Granted, first I had to sit through another horrible Sarah Jessica Parker movie, but after that they showed a quick snap-shot documentary on musicians like Sam Cooke, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and, of course, Robert Johnson and how blues music was the base for rock-and-roll. Best part yet?… it was narrated by Morgan Freeman.
2- On my 4.5 hour flight from LAX to D.C., I had an entire row to myself.
Don’t ask me how that happened, but it wasn’t a sold-out flight, so I was golden.¬†
3- The glass-encased smoker’s area in Dulles airport.
During my layover in D.C., I noticed that those who want to light up heaters don’t get an open-air atrium like at LAX. Instead, smokers have to go to a small, closed-off room with about 25 seats and 10 ashtrays. Look, anything to keep my clothes from smelling like tar and nicotine is cool with me.
4- Free booze.
On the flight from D.C. to Raleigh, I was subjected to a back row seats. You know, the ones that don’t recline and almost seem to be leaning forward if anything. Well, I guess the stewardess… er, I mean, the flight attendant, felt sorry for me so when she asked me if I needed anything, I told her, I could use a unlimited supply of Jack-n-Cokes. Well, she slid me a freeby on the house without me asking. Next thing you know, I’m wishing it was a three-hour flight instead of the 35 minute jaunt we got.¬†
5-The in-flight magazine had a baseball article by a writer named Adam K. Raymond in it titled “Game Theory” where it explained six myths about baseball. So without further ado…
THE BIGGEST MYTHS IN BASEBALL
(with his abbreviated explanations)
- MYTH: The best pitchers win the most games.¬†
His example of this was Steve Trachsel of the 2006 Mets who won 15 games but gave up nearly five runs a game. (Editor’s note: Isn’t that a good ERA in college?)
- MYTH: The only thing worse than a strikeout is the plague.
His reasoning here is that myth is because you can always point to the best sluggers in the game as having the biggest strikeout totals too. For example, Reggie Jackson has the most Ks in major league history with 2,597. So don’t get down on a guy that strikes out a lot.
- MYTH: The best sluggers have the most RBI.
Adam writes, “Measuring a hitter by his RBIs is like measuring your health by the size of your gut. Sure, it will give you a decent idea of where you stand, but there are far more advanced metrics.¬†
- MYTH: Sometimes bunting is a good move.¬†
Typically used to advance runners with a sacrifice, the author says “the idea is actually wrong. Statistical analysis shows that the out lost is more valuable than the base gained. Even the Washington Nationals are more likely to score when the batters goes for the hit.” (At this point I realized if Augie Garrido had a grave, he’d be rolling over in it)
- MYTH: Cracker Jacks are better than peanuts.
Never trust a snack that doesn’t come in its own shell.
(Editor’s note: I skipped over one more myth Mr. Raymond had down there, which was… “Managers look fantastic in baseball uniforms” ‘coz I figured you already knew most of those old codgers don’t. Please bring back the Connie Mack suit and tie)
Okay, more reports from my East Coast bias in the next few days. And by the way, did I mention how big of a drag being on Eastern time is? Man, I’m going to sleep when games are still going on… you gotta be kiddin’ me!
G’night. Well, I mean, G’day.