Editor’s note: College Baseball Nation is joined by guest writer, Owen Surett. Owen Surett is a college student who resides in North Carolina. Owen covers College Baseball for his media outlet, College Baseball USA (@ColBaseUSA on Twitter), which was founded in Fall of 2019. He is passionate about various aspects of the game, including analytics, player development, and player evaluation.
Coastal Carolina opens up the season with an encouraging off-the-field storyline at the forefront. After a cancer diagnosis that forced him to miss some games in 2020, Coastal Carolina Head Coach Gary Gilmore says he is feeling “better than I felt 10 years ago” and will return to doing what he loves, coaching the Chanticleers for his 26th season.
The team has some question marks, primarily on the mound, but there is plenty of hitting to go around. Undoubtedly, the leader of this offense is CF Parker Chavers. Likely one of the next 30 players drafted in 2020, if there had been a 6th round, Chavers was sidelined for all of the shortened 2020 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Chavers said he has recovered and is “fully healthy” to begin 2021. He emphasized that his focus is on being consistent in 2021 and staying on the field. The rangy center fielder said he is also going to run more in 2021 and put his plus speed to use on the base paths.
Candidates to flank Chavers are Makenzie Pate, a sophomore OF with speed, a solid arm, and a work-in-progress bat, 5’8” junior Lorenzo Morello who has a building positive buzz around him, and Tyler Johnson, a stocky JuCo transfer from Eastern Oklahoma, who can really hit.
The key to the offense will be the pieces around Chavers, like SS Eric Brown, who impressed with the bat during the Chanticleers’ media day scrimmage on Friday. Brown has a short swing, a big leg kick, and is capable of driving balls with authority. He plays a solid shortstop too. Likely moving to second base this season will be Nick Lucky, a junior left-handed hitter with solid offensive tools and speed. He has played mostly outfield in the past. Redshirt senior power threat Fox Leum will have a good shot at first base. The left handed bat is capable of producing runs in the middle of the order. At 3B, Sophomore Cooper Weiss has shown to be able to handle the hot corner and has a good hit tool to go along with it. Middle-infielder Dale Thomas is a guy the Chanticleers can plug in as an energizer-type that plays the game hard.
At catcher, there is a competition developing between BT Riopelle and Tanner Garrison. Riopelle is a left-handed bat with pop. Garrison, the sophomore, has progressed defensively and gives Coastal Carolina a potential late-game option if Riopelle is to win the starting job. Senior Alex Gattinelli is in the mix too but played more outfield than catcher last year. He figures to get some playing time as the DH as well. A couple other hitters who will get some at bats are Walt Richardson, who consistently barreled balls in batting practice and in the scrimmage, and Zack Beach, who hit an absolute bomb to left field in the scrimmage.
On the mound, where Coach Gilley said most of his question marks are, there are plenty of arms to work with, but no clear Friday night starter. The Chants are likely to go with a trial-and-error approach and see who separates themselves from the pack. The guy that they expected to take that role was Reece Maniscalco, a grad transfer from Wofford who is dealing with an injury and is expected to miss the start of the season after an impressive fall. Grad transfer from Wright State RHP Daniel Kreuzer figures to have some say in the competition, as well as Jr. RHP Nick Parker, the Sunday starter last year. RHP Shaddon Peavyhouse will likely get an expanded role as well, with the departures of Zach McCambley and Scott Kobos.
Redshirt sophomore Jacob Maton, brother of Indians pitcher Phil Maton, worked at 87-89 mph with pinpoint command in the scrimmage. He could have a shot at a weekend role or midweek starter. Gilley raved about his freshman arms before the game, and they did not disappoint. 5’10” RHP Teddy Sharkey from New Jersey was 92-94 in his first inning of work with a potential average to above average curveball, and a solid slider as well. However, his command was inconsistent. RHP Luke Barrow was up to 92 mph with a gyro-slider that may have been the best pitch on the day.
Reid VanScoter, a lefty with a sweeping breaking ball should get significant innings this year, as well as Alaska Abney, the Chanticleers’ sidearm reliever who was an important piece in the bullpen last year.
The strength of this team is certainly depth in the lineup. Led by Parker Chavers, Coastal Carolina’s lineup has the potential to score a lot of runs. Can the freshmen arms make an impact from the beginning and can Gilley’s squad find a reliable Friday night arm? That remains to be seen.
Coastal Carolina begins the year ranked #37 in College Baseball Nation’s Preseason Top 50.