Who’s the Pack playing?
Opponent: Coastal Carolina
Mascot: Angry Tiny Dinosaurs | School Location: Conway Twitty, SC | Conference: Fun Belt
2023 Record: 2-1 (0-0, T-1st) | 2023 RPI Rank: 46
2022 Record: 39-20-1 (21-8-1, 3rd) | 2022 RPI Rank: 29
2021 Record: 27-24 (9-12, 6th East) | 2021 RPI Rank: 96
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Brooks Stadium (Conway, SC)
Game Time(s): Wed, Feb 22 @ 4:00pm
TV: Wednesday (ESPN+)
Radio: The Varsity Network (Wednesday)
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Tell me about this team
First off, they really missed an opportunity here to play this game at 2:22pm, but whatever.
As for Coastal Carolina, let’s take a look at the preseason preview and see what was said:
After missing out on an NCAA Regional appearance in 2021, Coastal bounced back by making the Greenville Regional in 2022, marking the 17th time the Chanticleers have participated in the last 21 postseasons. The team will need to replace a lot on offense, though, if they are to making that 18-of-22 this year. A trio of returning seniors will lead the way in OF Graham Brown (.922 OPS, 10.9 BB%, 14.4 K%), OF Nick Lucky (.877 OPS, 14.9 BB%, 17.9 K%), and C/OF Kameron Guangorena (.797 OPS, 13.1 BB%, 16.9 K%), but six impact bats are gone from last year’s team - including 1st round pick SS Eric Brown - with those six players accounting for 55 of the team’s 82 home runs in 2022. The Chants hit the transfer market hard in attempting to rebuild the lineup, bringing in six transfers (2 JUCO, 3 D1, 1 D2). At least three of the transfers should capture starting gigs out of the game while the other three figure to play prominent roles for the team. INF Payton Eeles (D2 Cedarville Univ; .990 OPS, 11.1 BB%, 8.4 K%, 27-31 SB) might be the most intriguing of them. The team also brought in four freshman position players, with C Caden Bodine and undersized INF Dean Mihos looking like potential immediate impact players.
Coastal will have to replace their entire weekend rotation from a year ago, which is going to be their biggest challenge as that group (which included 3rd rounder Michael Knorr and 5th rounder Reid VanScooter) combined to go 20-7 with a 3.86 ERA over 242.2 IP with a 5.8 BB% and a 24.3 K%. Those are tough numbers to replace. Gone, too, are nine of the team’s 15 saves from a year ago, including their top three relievers. Righties rSO Riley Eikhoff (4-0, 1 SV, 30.1 IP, 5.8 BB%, 15.8 K%), SO Matthew Potok (4-0, 3.71 ERA, 26.2 IP, 6.1 BB%, 16.7 K%), JR Matt Joyce (4-1, 4.50 ERA, 24.0 IP, 8.8 BB%, 15.4 K%), JR Teddy Sharkey (0-2, 2 SV, 6.19 ERA, 16.0 IP, 13.2 BB%, 15.8 K%), and SR Jack Billings (1-3, 2 SV, 11.66 ERA, 14.2 IP, 15.7 BB%, 19.3 K%) are the only returning arms who crossed the double-digit innings threshold a year ago, but Joyce is set to miss the year after TJS. Five transfers (3 D1, 1 NAIA, 1 JUCO) are inbound to help, but they figure to be less impactful than the positional transfers. Whereas the returning arms are high on strike-throwers, the transfer arms feature a couple high-ceiling, low-floor lotto tickets with questionable control in JR RHPs Alex Edmondson (Clemson; 2-0, 4.66 ERA, 9.2 IP, 18.4 BB%, 34.7 K%) and Bobby McBride (UConn). The group also has a few similar as well as a couple high-floor, low-ceiling guys in rJR RHP Jake Manderson (NAIA Georgetown College; 6-4, 3 SV, 3.19 ERA, 62.0 IP, 7.0 BB%, 28.5 K%) and SR RHP Davis Tyndall (Western Carolina; 0-0, 4.71 ERA, 21.0 IP, 13.7 BB%, 17.9 K%). The wildcard of the transfer group is JR LHP Bryce Shaffer (South Florida State JUCO; 3-3, 1 SV, 3.39 ERA, 71.2 IP, 9.9 BB%, 26.8 K%), who has a funky but effective delivery that allows his not-overpowering stuff to play up. Seven freshman arms will also look to fill in the void of lost 2022 production, with LHP Levi Huesman (17th round pick in 2022) being the star of the class.
This team looks to be a year away.
We’re not even a full week into the 2023 season, so I’m going to stick by that, but let’s see what we learned so far thru the Chanticleers’ first three games.
Coastal hosted the ‘Baseball at the Beach’ tournament/round-robin/soiree and went 2-1, beating Fairfield (by a score of 14-7) and Middle Tennessee (11-3) before dropping their final game against VCU (2-4). Well, immediately you see that the Chants posted four innings of 4+ runs out of the total 25 innings the team went to bat. That’s pretty good. 2B Payton Eeles (1.215 OPS, 23.1 BB%, 0.0 K%, 4-4 SB) made the jump from D2 ball look like he had jumped down to D3. 3B Blake Barthol (1.847 OPS, 25.0 BB%, 12.5 K%), C Caden Bodine (1.134 OPS, 0.0 BB%, 13.3 K%), and RF Graham Brown (1.072 OPS, 0.0 BB%, 50.0K%) also had solid weekends (well, except for Brown’s golden sombrero on Sunday). The problem was there wasn’t a lot of punch outside of those four guys outside of some Lucky walk rates.
The Chants also committed five errors on the weekend from five different players, without a cleanly played game in the mix. Catching was a positive, though, with Bodine throwing out 2-of-4 base stealers and he and Sunday C Tanner Garrison didn’t allow a passed ball.
Only one starting pitcher worked past the third inning in the season opening series, with that being a 9-strikeout performance by 6’8 true freshman RHP Jacob Morrison (1-0, 3.60 ERA, 5.0 IP, 0.0 BB%, 50.0 K%). Aside from one horrendous outing - by the guy slated to start on Wednesday against NC State, no less - the bullpen was the star of the pitching staff. Should that remain the case, Coastal may be in for a better season than I predicted.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Wednesday: RHP Riley Eikhoff (rSO)
2B Payton Eeles (SR) - .500/.615/.600, 23.1 BB%, 0.0 K%, 4-4 SB. Five-foot-seven left-handed hitter who looks exactly like you’d expect a 5’7 college second baseman to look. Very good hitter with great contact skills and an aggressive approach.
3B Blake Barthol (FR) - .444/.625/1.222, 25.0 BB%, 12.5 K%, 0-0 SB. Another undersized (5’9) left-handed hitting infielder, it’s hard to imagine a better start to a college career... well, minus the error on Sunday that eventually allowed the winning run to score for VCU. Hitting leadoff right out of the gate as a freshman for a strong program like Coastal - and homering in his first AB, at that - is quite an accomplishment.
C Caden Bodine (FR) - .467/.467/.667, 0.0 BB%, 13.3 K%, 0-0 SB. Stocky, switch-hitter was the top-rated catcher in the state of New Jersey last year. Posted multiple hits in all three games of the weekend, catching two and DHing one.
RHP Riley Eikhoff (rSO) - 0-0, 10.12 ERA, 2.2 IP, 0.0 BB%, 42.9 K%. Came on to start the 5th inning of Friday’s game with Coastal staked to an 8-2 lead, and that was a good thing as Eikhoff gave up three gopher balls (a 2-run shot in the 5th and back-to-back jacks in the 7th). In between those homers, he was dominant despite dealing with poor defensive play behind him.
LHP Bryce Shaffer (JR) - 0-0, 1, SV, 0.00 ERA, 4.0 IP, 8.3 BB%, 41.7 K%. Pitches exclusively from the stretch with a cross-body delivery. Big curveball is his best pitch. Could be a candidate to move into the starting rotation if he can be more than a two-pitch guy.
RHP Darin Horn (SO) - 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.1 IP, 10.0 BB%, 60.0 K%. Control issues limited him to just 10.0 IP as a freshman in 2022, but he’s crushed both his outings in 2023 recording six of his seven outs via the K. Throws a low-90s heater with a bevy of other pitches (sinker, slider, cutter).
LHP Liam Doyle (FR) - 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.0 IP, 0.0 BB%, 75.0 K%. Works fast, pounds the zone, and relies heavily on his low-to-mid 90’s fastball. Intriguing arm, but will need to show more than just the heater - his changeup was okay against Fairfield.
Quick! Fun Facts!
Nine of Coastal’s 40-man roster have last names that start with the letter ‘B’. I don’t know, that just seems high to me.
Despite being all of a 40 minute drive to the state line, Coastal has only three players from the state of North Carolina: JR OF Houston Koon (Wilkesboro), SR RHP Davis Tyndall (Morehead City), and FR RHP Brodie McFadden (Holly Springs).
Coastal had two alums play in the Majors last year: former Durham Bull 2B/3B Taylor Motter (Reds) and 2B Tommy La Stella (Giants).
The obvious question mark here for both teams is midweek starting pitching. Last weekend, both State and Coastal showed strong bullpen efforts, which would lead you to believe a Johnny Wholestaff approach by either or both teams would be sufficient to keep the bats at bay - and that appears to be Coastal’s approach to this one with Eikhoff starting on the mound.
This being the first road contest for the Wolfpack gives the advantage to the angry tiny dinosaurs.
Outcome: Coastal ekes out a close, low-scoring affair.