‘They’re the best’

Charleston's dugout erupts after Alex Pastorius hit a homerun against Coastal Carolina during their game Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at Patriots Point. Paul Zoeller/Staff

The debate is over — the College of Charleston is the best college baseball team in the state of South Carolina.

At least that’s if you listen to Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore and Cougars first baseman Nick Pappas.

After Wednesday night’s 8-5 victory over Coastal Carolina at Patriots Point, the 20th-ranked Cougars (29-9) swept the two-game regular season series from the Chanticleers (27-13), who are ranked as high as No. 23 in the latest DI Baseball poll, and won for the 15th time in their last 17 games.

An impressive run by anyone’s standards.

The Chanticleers, who already have wins over South Carolina and Clemson this season, have had little trouble with their in-state opponents, but have struggled against their coastal rivals in the two games this month. With the Gamecocks and Tigers struggling to win mid-week games, the Cougars are the highest-ranked team in South Carolina.

“There’s no argument as far as I’m concerned,” Gilmore said.

“The College of Charleston is the best team in the state. The way they are playing right now, they’re the best team.

You’ll get no argument from Pappas, who had two hits, including a solo home run in the seventh inning, and drove in three runs on the night.

“I think from the very beginning of the season we felt like we had the best team in the state,” Pappas said. “I think we proved that tonight.”

While College of Charleston coach Monte Lee isn’t ready to anoint the Cougars just yet, he does like his team’s swagger.

“We do talk about the confidence factor and how confident we are in our players as coaches,” Lee said. “Obviously, you want the players to stay grounded and keep competing one pitch and one game at a time and keep things in perspective. But we do want our players to understand what they’ve accomplished up to this point in the season. This is a very confident club and they’re playing loose and having a lot of fun along the way.”

The Cougars did it again at the plate, pounding out 11 hits, including two home runs and getting another big inning. The Cougars are averaging more than a home run per game this season. Charleston recorded a four-run third inning that broke the game open. All four runs came after two outs.

“I think the big thing we’ve done all year long is the big inning,” Lee said. “It’s been a major, major factor for us. If you look at when we win, we find a way to throw up a big inning at some point and we did it again tonight. We came up with a couple of big hits with two outs.”

The Cougars led by as much as 7-1 late in the game, until the Chanticleers made things interesting on Casy Schroeder’s three-run shot that cut the gap to 8-5 in the eighth inning.

“That’s what good ball clubs are going to do,” Lee said. “Coastal Carolina has beaten some big-time opponents this year because they’re not going to give up. We gave them a couple of free passes and they made us pay for it.”

Nathan Helvey (6-3) picked up the win, throwing six strong innings, giving up five hits and striking out two batters. It was Helvey’s second victory over the Chanticleers in the past eight days.

“That’s another quality start for Nathan Helvey,” Lee said.