Chants face Sooners ace in prospective No. 1 pick Gray

The Coastal Carolina-Oklahoma matchup in the 2013 NCAA Blacksburg Regional is similar to when the Chants faced Connecticut in the opening game of the 2011 NCAA Clemson Regional.

Like UConn in 2011 when Matt Barnes was the talk of the Regional, Oklahoma features a first round pitcher – perhaps the overall first pick – in right-hander Jonathan Gray. The fireballer who routinely hits triple digits on the radar gun reportedly met with scouting officials from the Houston Astros, who have the No. 1 overall pick in Friday’s free agent draft.

While Gray is the scheduled starter and set to face Coastal’s Tyler Herb, if the Sooners had gone with their second option, left-hander Dillon Overton, the quality does not drop much as Overton is projected to be the 60th overall pick in the draft by Baseball America.

The road will be more difficult as All-Big South catcher Will Remillard, who leads the team in RBI, will likely be out for the Regional. The sophomore has been battling back issues for the past three weeks. He played one full game in the regular season finale at Charleston Southern. At the Big South Tournament, he started two games, one at catcher and one at first base, but did not finish either due to the injury.

The good news for Coastal is the Chants – behind a strong pitching performance by Anthony Meo and a dominating performance at the plate by Tommy LaStella – defeated UConn in 2011.

Also, Coastal is in a familiar position, playing in an NCAA Regional for the seventh-straight year, being one of just 11 programs in the country to do so, joining Florida State, Miami (Fla.), South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Rice, Texas A&M and Cal State Fullerton. The Chants have also prepared for the this weekend throughout the season, playing 11 teams that are in NCAA Regionals, including host teams North Carolina, North Carolina State, Indiana and Kansas State.

Coastal Carolina and Oklahoma have never met on the baseball diamond. However, the two share a common opponent this season – Big 12 Champion Kansas State. In Coastal’s fourth game of the season, the Chants held on for a 2-1 win. Oklahoma closed the regular season with a three-game series at Kansas State with the Wildcats winning the first two, 6-5 and 5-2, before the Sooners won the finale, 7-3, then went on to win four straight to win the Big 12 Tournament.

Coastal is familiar with both top-seed Virginia Tech and fourth-seed Connecticut. The Chants dropped a heart-breaking 4-3, 10-inning loss in Blacksburg last season but are 6-3 all-time versus the Hokies.

CCU and UConn met twice in the 2011 NCAA Clemson Regional with CCU claiming game one, 13-1. The Huskies came back later to eliminate the Chants in the loser’s bracket with a 12-6 victory en route to winning the Regional. Last year, Connecticut faced CCU during one of the Chants’ early season tournaments with Coastal winning 6-2 to own a 2-1 all-time advantage in the series.

The entire NCAA Blacksburg Regional is set to be broadcast on ESPN3. The Chanticleers and Sooners will begin the festivities Friday at 1 pm. In addition to ESPN3, Matt Hogue will call the action locally on 100.3 FM WSEA The Team as well as on GoCCUSports.com as part of the Chanticleer Sports Network. As usual, live stats will be provided via GameTracker on GoCCUSports.com as well.

Photo courtesy of Big 12 Athletics

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