Chants can shed mid-major title by beating state powers

Coastal Carolina doesn’t mind if NCAA Regional foes and Palmetto State powers Clemson and South Carolina look down their noses at them because, frankly, the Chanticleers don’t care what anyone else thinks.

“We kind of expect it from time to time being a mid-major school, but I wouldn’t say that we’re focused on what other people are focused on,” said Coastal Carolina pitcher Aaron Burke.

“We’re focused on going out there and playing the same game we’ve always played and doing our best to compete. I don’t think it affects us (regarding) what people expect from us.”

Coastal may be the third wheel in a regional the rest of the state and nation are expecting to come down to the rival Gamecocks and Tigers, but they’re not approaching it that way.

When the Chants step on the diamond Friday at noon to face Clemson, a team they defeated 10-7 on the road in March, they are doing so as a team with the confidence of knowing they can beat the higher-profile Tigers. But to truly get over the mid-major hump, the Chants need to do so in the postseason and prove they belong in Omaha.

“For us to ever shed that mid-major type title that everyone wants to throw on us, we have to at some point in time get to a regional and super regional and, if we’re playing South Carolina or Clemson, we have to break through,” said CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore. “Every time we get an opportunity like this, it’s a great opportunity.”

Coastal has swung and missed at those chances in recent years. The Chants’ season came to a close at the Clemson Regional last year, and the Gamecocks knocked them out of the Myrtle Beach Super Regional in 2010.

Those close losses are distant memories to college baseball observers; all they remember are the winners. The truth is coming close isn’t good enough any more for Coastal, which is making its sixth straight regional appearance and 12th overall.

“After as many years as we’ve been banging on that door, I hope we’re not somebody that anybody would overlook,” Gilmore said. “I’ve been in this tournament a number of times and never done the things and seen the places that Ray (Tanner) and Jack (Leggett) have done. It’s a dream of ours to get to Omaha.”

For that dream to become a reality, the Chants need to shake the mid-major label from their own minds and forget what others think. The external admiration will happen only after Coastal rises to the occasion internally, and that seems to be the mindset going into this weekend.

“I don’t think we have any pressure on us or off us,” said Coastal outfielder and Big South Conference Player of the Year Daniel Bowman. “We’re coming to compete and have fun.”

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