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College World Series preview: Reviewing Coastal Carolina’s 2016 season

Don’t call this team a cinderella

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Coastal Carolina vs TCU Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of people have been calling Coastal Carolina the "Cinderella story" of this year’s College World Series, but in reality, this run for the Chanticleers has been a long time coming.

This is CCU head coach Gary Gilmore’s 21st season as the head coach, taking over the reigns of his alma mater in 1995.

"I mean, coming from where I started 21 years ago and where our university was at that point in time and where we’re at today, to know that we’re on this stage is one of the most incredible things I could have ever imagined," he told Baseball America after taking down TCU on Saturday to get to this point. "I don’t know if I’ve ever dreamt this far, to be honest with you."

While this may be the first time the Chanticleers have been to Omaha, and only the third time they’d even reached the Super Regional round, make no mistake that this is one of the better programs in the country since the turn of the century.

That’s right, they have the ninth-most wins of any school in the country in the last 16 years. They were also a preseason top 25 team this year, so it’s not like CCU came out of nowhere.

This year, the Chants are 53-17 (the most wins in the country), and went 21-3 in the Big South. They were actually the only team within the top 16 of the RPI at the end of the regular season that were not awarded a home Regional. What probably hurt them is that at the end of April/beginning of May, they went to Georgia Tech for a three-game series, and were swept by the Yellow Jackets.

Since they weren’t awarded a Regional, they were sent two and a half hours up the road to Raleigh for the first weekend.

Coastal was actually in the driver’s seat in that Regional, but NC State forced the deciding game, and the Chanticleers were down two runs heading into the ninth inning.

That final inning of the Regional was postponed to the next day due to weather, setting up a one inning showdown for a Super Regional bid.

The Chanticleers had the bases loaded when the game was delayed. They came right out and scored four runs in the top of the ninth the next day, taking down the Wolf Pack by a score of 7-5.

Just like Arizona, CCU then went to an SEC school for a Super Regional. The only other years they were able to make it to this point in the postseason were in 2008 and 2010. They traveled to Baton Rouge to face the LSU Tigers. And much like Arizona, the Chants swept their SEC foe in their park, taking the two games by scores of 11-8 and 4-3.

This brought them to Omaha, where they went on the exact same path as Arizona. CCU opened CWS play with a win over Florida, the nation’s top-ranked team for much of the season. They then lost to a Big 12 opponent, TCU, sending them through the elimination game gauntlet.

But a win over Texas Tech and two wins over TCU has the Chanticleers as one of the final two teams playing this year.

Not only did Arizona and Coastal Carolina take similar roads to this point, they are very similar teams. Both are among the nation’s leaders in walks drawn, batting average, sacrifice hits, and team ERA.

The biggest difference has been the home run numbers, which probably doesn’t mean a ton in games held at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The Chanticleers lead the nation with 94 long balls this year, and have four different players that have hit 15+. They only have one HR in the CWS though, the same amount as Arizona.

There’s really a three-man threat in the order for CCU. Connor Owings, Zach Remillard and G.K. Young are all hitting above .340 this year, and all have at least 16 home runs. Owings has also walked 47 times this year, giving him an on-base percentage of .469, two points higher than Arizona’s Zach Gibbons.

Remillard leads the team and is 8th in the country in RBI (72) with Young right behind him (68). Remillard also has 15 stolen bases this year, which is the second-most on the team. Billy Cooke leads the way with 27 swiped bags, and with an OBP of .421, he certainly gets a lot of chances to put pressure on the other team on the basepaths.

Based on this look at the CCU pitching situation, Arizona will probably see either Zack Hopeck or Cole Schaefer in the first game. Just to be clear, neither coach has settled on who will start for them on the mound though.

Hopeck, a sophomore righty, got the final out of the loss to TCU earlier in the CWS, and his last start was the loss to NC State in the Regionals. He pitched 3 2/3 innings in that game, allowing four hits, two walks and five runs. Schaefer, a junior right-hander, actually pitched the final five innings of that game, giving up just one unearned run. That is Schaefer’s only outing since April 13th.

Both teams are facing question marks with their pitching situation heading into these final two or three games of the year, but both are very similar, and neither one is truly a "cinderella" despite the odds.

It should be a good, close few days of baseball to determine the 2016 National Champion.