Frog Fans!  We are two hours from first pitch against Coastal Carolina!  I just caught up with Bob Doyle who keeps up with their baseball team on their message board.  I emailed him an hour ago and he wrote back right away!  Everything but the questions are from Bob.  Small world, he used to live just up the road from me in suburban Chicago.  Enjoy!

 

Every year there is an upstart program that takes their first trip to Omaha, this year it’s CCU. What does it mean for the program and the CCU fan base to make CWS?

It is a huge ordeal for the program, the alumni, and the community. With Myrtle Beach being a transient town the fan support has struggled in all sports because most people (myself included) grew up cheering for a different team. I went to the “welcome back” greeting for the team after they swept LSU and I expected maybe 50 people to be there and there were probably 300. I know that doesn’t sound like many, but for CCU that is a lot. I was unable to go to the Send Off, but from what I heard and saw the number was around 600 people. The alumni of the program in particular are extremely excited and about 20-30 of them made the trip to Omaha from all parts of the country. They all love Gilley.

 

CCU has beaten LSU and Florida to make it to this point. Not a small accomplishment! What makes this team tick? Who are two or three players we will likely know too well after tonight?

The top of the lineup – Marks and Paez. They are the table setters like you probably saw in the LSU games. Marks is the sparkplug that gets the team going – whether it’s a big hit, a stolen base or just his attitude that gets the whole team going. Also, the senior leadership on the team. In my opinion it has given the team a sense of calmness in the post season.

The players you will (hopefully) know all too well are AC (Alex Cunningham) our starting pitcher. He throws low to mid 90s and his off speed stuff has been improving throughout the year. He was our Friday night started for about half the year and then Beckwith got the starting nod and has not looked back. In CF, Billy Cooke. He is absolutely amazing. He made a play against Georgia Tech that was insane. He also has all the alignments on a wrist pad similar to an NFL qb and calls out all the adjustments to the RF Owings and LF Marks – two seniors, and he is a sophomore. He is batting around .350 and seems to hit the ball hard every time. The other guy is our 3b Zach Remillard. He leads the team in HRs with 19 and can play a solid 3b.

 

TCU went from the WAC CUSA MWC Big East to land in B12 over a 16 year period. What conference and division has CCU traveled? I believe they’re joining Sun Belt?

You are correct CCU is joining the Sun Belt effective July 2016. We were a founding member in the Big South (1983), but outgrew the conference – especially in baseball and football. Baseball has had to schedule tough out of conference teams for years to counteract the RPI hit we take when playing Big South teams – the same with football.

 

What should we know about the CCU fan base, student culture and school in general. Being a “young” school what has your success in sports fine to unite the fan base?

The CCU fan base is growing. Like you mentioned we are a young University. The alums who graduated around my time (2003) feel like we can start the change to making CCU the school that our kids grow up rooting for. It is something that just takes time unfortunately. The student support has grown over the past 10+ years. It’s no coincidence that football started right around that time as well. The success we have had in basketball (NCAA tourney 2 of the last 3 years), FCS Football (playoffs multiple years in a row), the sustained baseball success, and even our soccer team’s success (a few sweet 16 appearances in the last few years) has increased the student turn out. I won’t lie to you, living close to the beach, 9 miles, gives the students a lot of things to do off campus and a lot of them choose to do that instead of going to a game, but as I mentioned earlier, the student support is growing.

 

A few thing to know about Coastal Carolina:

1) It is pronounced chan-tə-ˈklir,
2) Our school is growing by leaps and bounds. When I was a student there were less than 5k students. Now that number is 10,000.
3) A few famous alumni are PGA Tour player Dustin Johnson, actor Michael Kelly, and NFL FB Mike Tolbert.
4) With the sustained athletic success we have upgraded just about every athletic facility we have with soccer being next. Our baseball facilities are some of the best in the country.
5) Lastly, WE’RE GOING TO BEAT YOU! 😉 Haha had to throw that in there.

This may provide some more detailed info on CCU baseball:

Our Team:

Offense:
Yea, as many of you have posted, we have hit 96 HRs this year. Our ballpark is not extremely small – I believe it’s 320-330 down the lines, 360-370 in the gaps and 390 to CF with about a 30ft high wall. We also have 102 SB (10th in the nation) and rank 12th in the NCAA in sac bunts so yes we can play Gorilla Ball if we need to, or we can play get ’em on, over and in ball too just ask LSU. They thought our numbers were inflated.

My favorite player to watch is our CF Billy Cooke. He is a sophomore and has speed to burn, and he is in charge of the outfield and makes all the adjustment calls…oh yea and our corner outfielders are seniors and take instructions from him. Pretty crazy. He has a little power, but always hits the ball hard – I think he is batting in the high .340s or low .350s.

The rest of our offense is pretty evenly balanced. We will have 4 or 5 lefties in the lineup every game, our SS, Michael Paez, is a small guy but has power (14HRs I believe) and on the other side of the ball he can make plays that will leave your jaw on the floor, but then boot the easy 6-4-3 grounder from time to time.

Defense:
Our defense has been improving all year long. Our outfield has been consistent all year long. Our RF Connor Owings has an above average arm and so does Cooke. I thought our LF and leadoffman Anthony Marks had a subpar arm, but he threw a runner out at the plate in our conference tourney which shocked me. Let’s see….3b Remillard has a great arm and can pick it, but he has the tendancy to airmail it sometimes. Already talked about Paez at SS. Our 2b Seth Lancaster (he had the 2rbi hit in the 9th with 2 out vs NC St) is out for the post season with a torl PCL. He is replaced by our 1b Tyler Chadwick. He played solid there against Florida. At 1st is Kevin Woodall Jr. he is almost as big as Luken Baker lol 6’5″ 240lbs. When Chadwick was playing 1b, Gilley would substitute Woodall in later in games and I am still not sure why other than he is obviously a larger target than the 5’9″ Chadwick. In the Florida game Woodall made two great scoops on throws from Chadwick. Catcher has been a bone of contention for me all year (I’m a season ticket holder). David Parrett had 12hrs last year I think and has not come close to that this year and Matt Beaird has not impressed me at all, BUT in the conference tourney, in Raleigh, and at Alex Box I have to give Beaird credit he was a solid backstop and had a few hits. With the rest of our lineup being pretty potent, we don’t need much from our backstop.

Pitching:
I will try to wrap this up as I think I may be rambling.

Arm angles and speed. Andrew Beckwith will throw from just about any arm angle imaginable and has very good control.but will not blow up any radar guns. Alex Cunningham on the other hand can touch 94 and has shown really good off speed stuff his last few outings. We have a Freshman phenom named Jason Bilous. He turned down $600k from the Dodgers I believe it was to come to Conway. He has hit 98mph and has a ++ changeup. He is working on a 3rd pitch as well. Control is the name of his game. Against Liberty in the Big South Conference title game his control was great and he was unhittable for a while. Zack Hopeck is another guy who could come in from the pen but you will probably not see him. He has pitched against UNC, UNCw, and the Lamecocks and he will not blow you away with speed but he has great control. In our bullpen we have Freshman All American Austin Kitchen – our only LHP. He has struggled lately after doing well to start the season. He was one of the few guys who wasn’t afraid to throw inside and it worked for him. He can hit 91 and has a 12-6 curve. Our closer and All American is Mike Morrison. He can hit 90-91 but his 2 off speed pitches and the fact that he throws them all from the same slot and arm speed is what separates him.

Here are a few things that worry me and some other CCU fans:

1) Not Luken Baker – we have played Will Craig from Wake Forest and Peter Alonzo from Florida. Our pitchers have been able to work around them and not give them too much to hit. They went a combined 3 for 10 with 3R, 2Ks, and 0 RBI.
2) Your entire lineup. I believe you have 6 guys batting over .300 and 6 with 10+ stolen bases. Balance and no breaks in the lineup scares me.
3) Your starting pitcher. I believe he is 6’9″ and throws 89-92. Nothing great with the velo but with him being 6’9″ I assume he isn’t releasing the ball around 58ft from the dish but more like 55ft and that 88-92 is going to look like 92-95.

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