Coastal Carolina tosses up zeros
Notes: Arkansas’ Baxendale added to collegiate national team
It’s about that time in the season when momentum starts to play a part in shaping a team’s future.
If Coastal Carolina’s recent play is any indication of how it may play down the stretch, the Chanticleers look to have a bright future. The Chanticleers have won eight consecutive games, including a school and Big South record four consecutive shutouts. Coastal shutout VMI, and then went on to sweep Radford in shutout fashion, and currently boasts a 37-inning consecutive scoreless streak.
Head coach Gary Gilmore is not sure what to attribute the rare feat to, but he is thrilled his team is finally clicking.
“If I could bottle that up, I would be one of the richest guys in America,” Gilmore said.
While the pitching staff has compiled a 0.50 ERA with a .167 opponent batting average over the last six games, the offense is heating up, too. The team is batting .324 during the stretch. Scott Woodward and Rich Witten are both riding 14-game hitting streaks, while Tommy LaStella has steadily improved his average to .406, and Daniel Bowman has notched a hit in 20 of his last 21 games.
“I think it’s because they had gotten a little bit of rest,” Gilmore said. “We didn’t have so many games (over the last two weeks). We had 19 of 26 games on the road, and I think it wore on them a little bit. Now, I think they’re catching their second wind.”
Until the eight-game winning streak, the Chants were 25-15, and anything but consistent. They dropped three in a row at Pepperdine and lost Big South series to UNC Asheville and High Point. The Chants were not playing up to expectations as a preseason No. 20 team.
“We had a lot of injuries … a lot of illness,” Gilmore said. “We haven’t had the opportunity to play the team that I thought I had. It’s hit and miss even now, but we’re getting to put more pieces out there right now than we have been. Hopefully, that’s a good sign for us towards the end.”
Although Coastal’s whole pitching staff has been stellar over the last two weeks, Gilmore was very impressed with his ace Anthony Meo’s command against Radford. Meo fanned a career-high 12 batters in eight innings, allowing just three hits en route to earning his 29th career victory.
“Right now, they’re on a little bit of a roll, but we’ll have to see if they can keep it going,” Gilmore said. “If we can keep moving forward, this team has a chance to be a contender with the quality of the top-end of our pitching staff, and the diversity and numbers of looks and different combinations pitching-wise we can put out there, I think it can be a team that has a chance to win.”
With the Radford sweep, Coastal Carolina has won 21 consecutive home conference series, which ranks second-longest in the NCAA. The Chants have not lost at home in a conference series since April 14-15, 2006 when Birmingham-Southern took two-of-three.
This weekend, however, the Chants will head out on the road again for a three-game series at Winthrop beginning May 13. Coastal sits on top of the Big South standings entering the weekend, two games ahead of Liberty.
Need to Know
• Arkansas sophomore pitcher DJ Baxendale is the most recent addition to the 2011 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. The native of Jacksonville, Ark., ranks third in the Southeastern Conference with a 1.58 ERA and boasts a 7-1 mark and two saves in 14 appearances. In his most recent outing against No. 5 Florida, Baxendale threw his first complete game, tying a career high with seven strikeouts and allowing just three runs to pick up the win against the Gators. Baxendale joins Texas A&M RHP Michael Wacha, Florida shortstop Nolan Fontana and Florida LHP Brian Johnson as players already selected to the 22-man roster. Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn will also serve as an assistant coach for the squad.
• Binghamton right-hander Mike Augliera set a school record with 15 strikeouts in a 9-0 defeat of Maryland-Baltimore County last week. Augliera had a no-hitter through 6.2 innings before allowing a seventh-inning double in the eventual two-hitter. He was selected Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week for his performance.
• Kentucky’s Alex Meyer garnered NCBWA Co-National Pitcher of the Week after tossing a complete-game shutout as the Wildcats topped No. 2 Vanderbilt, 2-0, on May 6. The right-hander gave up just five basehits – all singles – and walked one batter, while striking out five and throwing 72 of 110 pitches for strikes in the outing. It was Meyer’s fourth complete game of the season, which leads the SEC. Meyer also paces the league with 96 strikeouts.
• Texas Tech is playing its first two-game midweek series on the road during the month of May since 1967 as the Red Raiders are in the midst of a visit to Michigan. The Red Raiders downed the Wolverines 8-2 in the first game of the series.
• After spending the last two weeks tending to his ailing father, Florida State senior captain Stuart Tapley provided a spark for the Seminoles with three RBI in a 13-1 win against No. 23 Stetson on Tuesday night. Tapley entered the game in the fifth inning as the designated hitter, and drew an RBI-walk, and then belted a two-run single in the seventh. It was Tapley’s first appearance with the team since April 24.
• No. 20 Rice continued to roll, winning its fifth consecutive game with a 2-1 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday night. Sophomore first baseman J.T. Chargois ripped his first career home run in the eighth inning – a solo blast in the eighth inning that provided the game-winning run for the Owls. Rice hosts Memphis for a three-game Conference USA series beginning May 13 as the Owls look to close in on league-leading Southern Miss.