The Virginia Cavaliers won’t be the only team in Greenville this weekend with recent success in the NCAA Tournament. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, winners of the 2016 College World Series, will be making their 17th Regional appearance since 2000.
The Cavaliers and Chanticleers are no strangers to one another having played 8 times during the O’Connor era, splitting them evenly 4-4, but they haven’t played since 2016, when Coastal beat UVA 5-4 in Myrtle Beach.
This season the Chants had a respectable regular season going 36-18-1 and 21-8-1 in the Sun Belt, finishing third behind Texas State and Georgia Southern. They played six games during the regular season against ACC opponents going 3-3 in those, but were swept by UNC in an early march series and took both games of a home and home series against Clemson. They played a rather difficult schedule, including the 9th hardest out of conference strength of schedule, but were only 8-7 against teams in the Top 50 of the RPI including 3-5 against teams in the top 25.
All those numbers should give UVA confidence, but to temper those expectations, Coastal went 19-4 down the stretch during the regular season.
It’s unclear who will start for Coastal on Friday against UVA. Their ace, Cal State Fullerton Senior transfer, Michael Knorr, is their clear cut ace amassing a 2.81 ERA and 0.97 WHIP while going 5-0 in 12 starts this season, but he started on Saturday for the Chants during the regular season. Friday night starter, RS Senior Reid VanScoter is nearly equally as talented as Knorr. VanScoter features a 3.06 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, a 9-2 record, and opponents only batted .235 off of him during the season. The Cavaliers feature a powerful offense, no doubt, but they will face a starter equally as good as most of the ACC arms they saw during the regular season.
Coastal will feature good starting pitching, but their offense is nearly as good as Virginia’s as well. The Chants batted .290 on the season with an .883 OPS, slugging 72 home runs to just 55 by their opponents. They get on base, but also put pressure on the defense having attempted 117 stolen bases this year. Though he doesn’t lead the team in any category, their best all around player is Eric Brown. Brown is thought to be a top 3 round draft pick in this year’s MLB draft. He batted .332 while slugging 1.019, scoring 57 runs, and averaging more than a hit per game. Keeping Brown, outfielder Austin White, and infielder Matt McDermott off the basepaths will be crucial for the Hoos as those three combined for 63 stolen bases in just 77 attempts this season.
Though Coastal ended the regular season hot, they did drop their only game of the single elimination Sun Belt Tournament 6-4 to Troy. They’ve had success against ACC teams and are a legitimate threat to win the Greenville Regional and advance to a Super Regional. UVA will have its hands full on Friday in a game that should be must watch for all college baseball fans.