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So You Bought A Chanticleer: Baton Rouge Super Regional Preview

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Coastal Carolina comes to roost in Baton Rouge for their Super Regional matchup with the Tigers

The first thing Paul Manieiri told his club when he began talking to them about the Super Regionals was that they should remove "Coastal Carolina" from their minds and think they're playing Texas A&M.

And he's absolutely right. And then some. Coastal has always been a good baseball team but is just starting to hit their stride in terms of national prominence.

Coastal Carolina's baseball program began in 1954, four years after the university was established in Conway, South Carolina (just eight miles away from Myrtle Beach) as Coastal Carolina Junior College, an extension of the College of Charleston. After some years as an independent community college, Coastal was picked up as an extension of the University of South Carolina. That's where they get their mascot the "Chanticleer" from. Before the merger they were the Trojans and as an extension of South Carolina they wanted their new mascot to represent their ties to USC (the Gamecocks, if you didn't realize the connection). As Coastal describes it,

Chanticleer comes from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. More specifically, he comes from the Nun's Priest Tale, a story within Canterbury Tales. The Chanticleer is a proud and fierce rooster who dominates the barnyard. For the best description of Chanticleer, we turn to Chaucer's words. "For crowing there was not his equal in all the land. His voice was merrier than the merry organ that plays in church, and his crowing from his resting place was more trustworthy than a clock. His comb was redder than fine coral and turreted like a castle wall, his bill was black and shone like a jet, and his legs and toes were like azure. His nails were whiter than the lily and his feathers were like burnished gold." With all of his splendor and great looks, Chanticleer is also greatly feared and mightily respected by all.

Coastal Carolina became a standalone university in 1993, the same year I was born (in fact I'm just barely only a month older) but decided to keep the unique mascot. I harbor a personal connection to Coastal's mascot due to my childhood fondness for the often forgotten 1992 Don Bluth film, Rock-A-Doodle where one of the main characters is named Chanticleer. In the movie, Chanticleer thinks his song is responsible for the sun rising every morning until he's exposed as a fraud, causing him to leave the city to be a cartoonized Elvis Presley while the evil Grand Duke (an owl) induces perpetual darkness. Hey wow, all three games of this series are slated for evening start times. Neat!

Coastal Carolina plays their home games at Spring Brooks Stadium, a newly renovated stadium that seats up to 3,000.

Coastal has 15 conference titles dating back to 1986 and have made 14 trips to the NCAA tournament, including four one seed berths but have only made it the Supers twice before this season, losing to North Carolina in 2008 and South Carolina in 2009.

This season Coastal raced out to a high RPI early in the season and maintained it, sitting pretty at 12 after the conference tournaments concluded, bolstered by their clean sweep of the Big South tournament. The Big South tournament was an exact replica of the Big South regular season that saw the Chanticleers only lose three games in conference play en route to a 47-16 record. CCU's only series loss came in late April when they inexplicably got swept by Georgia Tech in Atlanta. But the following week they responded by dumping 47 runs on Liberty.

Connor Owings .373 .673 .479 81 16 2 15 51 1.29
Seth Lancaster .310 .485 .444 53 9 0 7 34 1.08
Anthony Marks .280 .302 .403 63 2 0 1 24 .76
Billy Cooke .352 .467 .439 74 15 0 3 33 1.16
Zach Remillard .348 .632 .399 87 15 1 18 67 3.94

The first think you should know about Coastal Carolina is they can absolutely rake. In addition to having five starters batting over .300, they have four batters with 15 or more home runs (Michael Paez is the other) totaling 91 for the entire team. For comparison, Greg Deichmann is the only Tiger with double digit home runs, exactly 10 of LSU's 45 total. Texas A&M leads the entire SEC in home runs and they only have 58 for the entire team with Hunter Melton's 11 leading them. Perhaps the pitching in the Big South is slightly weaker than that in the SEC, but 91 dingers is 91 dingers any way you slice it. They also make good contact, with five players also having 15 or more doubles.

But the scary thing about the Chanticleers is that they can beat you by playing ABC baseball as well as playing Gorilla Ball. Their entire lineup has a consistently low K/BB and four batters are pulling an OBP of .400+. But it all begins with Connor Owings, who leads the team in all three portions of the slash. Owings can drop a ball in between the infield and outfield for a single and he can turn into a ball and put a charge into it. I'd advise pitching around him, but the batters around him can hurt you just as badly as he can.

The good news is that Alex Lange will likely be the best pitcher Coastal will see all season and if Poche can replicate his efforts from Tuesday, then LSU can win it in two easily.

Alex Cunningham 3.66 .248 2.73 98.1 92 40
Tyler Poole 3.72 .221 1.73 46 38 19
Bobby Holmes 4.52 .281 2.64 69.2 79 35
Andrew Beckwith 1.82 .257 4.21 89 87 18
Mike Morrison .79 .151 4.05 56.2 28 5

Coastal has the weirdest pitching staff I've seen this season, but it obviously works for them. Alex Cunningham is the staff ace, but he is also the only established starter. You've heard of bullpen by committee, but Coastal employs a rotation by committee. Despite his absurdly high number of innings pitched, Andrew Beckwith has only started six games all season while Tyler Poole, who is second on the team with 10 starts, has only thrown for 46 innings on the year. Their closer Mike Morrison has thrown for more than that. By the way, Tiger fans do not want to see Mike Morrison because he is lethal. That 4.05 K/BB is bolstered by his 77 (!) strikeouts to 19 walks.

But the good news is that outside of that one buzzsaw, I don't see anything in this lineup that LSU hasn't been dealing with all season. The matchup that wins or loses this series is solely the LSU one two punch of Alex Lange and Jared Poche' against the bulletproof Coastal Carolina lineup. If each only limit Coastal to 3-4 runs, I think LSU wins it in two. Then again, LSU's offense has been greatly inconsistent all season, and at bats like the first half of the Rice game will not cut it this week. Or at any point of the remaining season, really.