It’s been the weirdest, messiest season Gary Gilmore can recall in his 24 years of coaching baseball at Coastal Carolina.
At times his team showed glimmers of the 2016 squad that won the College World Series. Other times, the Chanticleers have looked undeserving of the national spotlight they’ve received.
Yet, here they are, in the same position as last year, albeit with a significantly worse record.
Coastal Carolina won the Sun Belt tournament last week to claim an automatic spot in the NCAA regionals. The Chanticleers play Game 1 of the Atlanta Regional at noon Friday against Auburn. The game will be on ESPNU.
“It hasn’t been pretty,” Gilmore said. “It’s like we were good for the first 24 games and then bad for 30.”
The numbers weren’t meant to be taken literally, but Gilmore isn’t far off.
The Chanticleers went 18-5-1 at the start of the season. In their final 31 games they went 13-18. That’s a far cry from last season when the Chants lost just 19 games, including postseason action.
Injuries have somewhat plagued the team, but Gilmore isn’t making excuses. For him, there are none. At the same time, he’s going to give credit where it’s due.
“We had multiple breakdowns, so it’s not like there’s one problem that needs fixing,” he said. “But our guys got the job done in a tough Sun Belt tournament so hopefully we’re headed in the right direction.”
Seth Lancaster thinks so. The Hanahan native was part of Coastal’s 2016 national title team, and still talks to the guys in Conway.
Lancaster was drafted by Philadelphia in the sixth round of last year’s draft and is currently in extended spring training with the Phillies.
But even with the rigors of professional baseball, Lancaster is a phone call or text away from his buddies.
Guys like second baseman Cory Wood and outfielder Parker Chavers are big parts of the Chants’ recent run in the Sun Belt tournament.
Lancaster said those guys are leaders on the team, replacing him and Georgetown native Kevin Woodall, Jr., who was drafted last year by the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It’s tough being able to rally the troops, even if everyone has the same goal,” Lancaster said. “But those guys are tough and know what it takes to win. And (Gilmore) has obviously been here before, so I think they’re ready to make a run.”
The 2016 national title will forever be a reference point in Coastal’s history. But that success belongs in the past, Gilmore said.
Now the Chants have to play as underdogs. They’re a No. 3 seed heading into regional play against No. 2 Auburn. They are in one of 16 double-elimination regional tournaments. The 16 winners will then head to the super regionals. The final eight will make the College World Series in Omaha.
“We’ve been written off for dead for a while now,” Gilmore said. “We had to go through the Sun Belt gauntlet to get here, and that speaks volumes on what we can do when we play together.”