Preview: TCU to take on red-hot Chanticleers

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Two facts sum up the history of TCU baseball’s postseason play:

1) TCU has won its opening game in the College World Series all four times the Frogs have been to Omaha, and:

2) TCU has lost its second game in the College World Series in each of the previous three times the Frogs have been to Omaha.

In other words, something’s gotta give for the Frogs if they want to break on through and reach the CWS final series.

They’ll get their chance to do just that on Tuesday night, when they take on the upstart Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (49-16, 21-3 Big South).

To save you a Google search, a “Chanticleer,” according to the CCU media guide, is “a rooster who rules the barnyard with cunning wit.” The name derives from a reference in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” the university says.

TCU fans can be forgiven for expecting a different opponent in the second game of the College Word Series. This, of course, is not meant as disrespect to the Chanticleers, but rather a reflection of whom CCU beat to get here.

Coastal Carolina has knocked off two SEC powerhouses in the past two weekends, LSU and Florida. The Chanticleers upset LSU in a three-game series in Baton Rouge to win a Super Regional, and then beat No. 1 ranked Florida in a tense 2-1 game on Sunday.

“I just keep telling them we’re playing people that are better than them and they keep proving me wrong,” CCU head coach Gary Gilmore said after the Florida win.

In short, CCU has a strong “team of destiny” sense about them — heck, Chanticleer alum Dustin Johnson even won the U.S. Open on Sunday, adding to a great weekend for the school. The Frogs will have to combat that mentality on Tuesday.

Here’s a complete position-by-position breakdown of Coastal Carolina, for those of you looking to impress your friends with your knowledge of the Chanticleers’ shortstop’s batting average during the game. The projected lineup is based on who CCU started against Florida on Sunday.

C: Matt Beaird (Sophomore) .209, 18 RBI, 0 HR

Beaird, a defensive catcher, will most likely start the game behind the plate for CCU. He saw some starting action in his freshman year, but took over the primary role this season.

Beaird is error-free in 32 straight games, which makes him a valuable asset for the Chanticleers. He’s also been perfect on sacrifice bunts, with 11 on the year.

Although he has a batting average that’s the worst on the team, he picked up a base hit against Florida in the CWS opener.

1B: Kevin Woodall, Jr. (Junior) .227, 16 RBI, 3 HR

Woodall, primarily a defensive replacement and pinch hitter, got the start against Florida on Sunday.

He’s normally a light-hitting first baseman, but has also come up big when the team needs him, including hitting a grand slam against Georgia Tech in the opening round of the NCAA playoffs.

He was 0-4 with a strikeout against Florida.

2B: Tyler Chadwick (Senior) .261, 42 RBI, 7 HR

Listed as a first baseman, Chadwick started at second against Florida with normal starter Seth Lancaster injured. The senior said after the game it was a team effort to get him ready to play out of his normal position, but he performed admirably, avoiding an error.

Chadwick has cooled off in his senior season from last year, when he averaged .303, but his power is still a presence. He was the Big South Player of the Week when he hit three home runs, including a grand slam, in a series against Stetson in March.

Chadwick was 0-3 against Florida on Sunday.

SS: Michael Paez (Junior) .287, 52 RBI, 15 HR

Paez was drafted in the 4th round by the New York Mets this year, and it’s easy to see why — the shortstop has great power for his position, and was a preseason All-American.

He’s 2nd in the NCAA in home runs by shortstops, and leads the Big South in runs scored. Paez typically bats in the 2nd spot for CCU, and he’ll be an important out for the Frogs.

He was 2-5 against Florida on Sunday.

3B: Zach Remillard (Senior) .347, 69 RBI, 19 HR

Remillard, a 3rd-Team All-American drafted in the 10th round by the Chicago White Sox, is the Chanticleer’s most potent offensive threat.

He ranks third in the NCAA in total bases, 8th in home runs, and 11th in RBI, and leads the Big South in all of those categories. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Raleigh Regional this year.

He kept his hot bat going against Florida, when he had a double and a triple and drove in both Chanticleer runs. He’s a dangerous player on the level of Luken Baker, and will pose a major threat Tuesday night.

LF: Anthony Marks (Senior) .278, 24 RBI, 1 HR

Marks is a solid defensive outfielder, and normally bats as the leadoff man for Coastal Carolina.

While his average has dipped from .343 to .278 this year, Marks has drawn 47 walks this season, and often stretches out at-bats from pitchers. He’s a tough out at the beginning of the game.

Marks went 2-5 against Florida, and scored the first run of the game in the fourth inning.

CF: Billy Cooke (Sophomore) .344, 35 RBI, 3 HR

Cooke has enjoyed a successful season in his first full season with the Chanticleers after injuring his hand in the third game of his freshman year.

His average jumped from .148 in his limited time last season to .344 this year, and he has 20 2-out RBI on the season. He’s suffered some bad luck, having failed to score a run in his last 10 games.

He went 1-3 against Florida on Sunday.

RF: Connor Owings (Senior) .379, 53 RBI, 16 HR

Owings has started the last 182 games for the Chanticleers — that’s three straight seasons — and was named the 2016 Big South Player of the Year, in addition to earning a 1st-Team All-American spot.

He’s one of just 6 players in the NCAA to have a .370 batting average, .470 on-base percentage, and .670 slugging percentage, and hit 2 home runs and a double at the Baton Rouge Super Regional. He bats in the third hole, one spot ahead of Remillard, and the two make for a formidable tandem.

Owings went 1-3 against Florida, with 2 strikeouts and 2 walks as well.

DH: G.K. Young (Junior) .345, 65 RBI, 17 HR

Yet another 1st-Team All-American for the Chanticleers, Young has reached base safely in 59 of 65 games this season.

Young had an outstanding year, homering in three consecutive games at one point and placing first in the Big South with 91 hits. He’ll normally bat in the fifth spot, behind Remillard.

He went 1-3 against Florida.

SP: Alex Cunningham (Junior) 9-3, 3.23 ERA, 91 K/34 BB

Gilmore has not said who his starter will be for the game against TCU, but Cunningham has typically pitched the game after ace Andrew Beckwith and threw the second game of the Baton Rouge Super Regional, so he’s a safe projection.

The righty was 2nd-Team All-Big South this season, and has exited each postseason game he’s pitched with the lead. Cunningham has just one complete game in his career, a 10-strikeout gem against Presbyterian this year, but has shown the ability to pitch deep into other games.

There’s your rundown of the Chanticleer lineup. The Frogs will most likely start Mitchell Traver* on the mound Tuesday night.

First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. on ESPN.

*UPDATE: Brian Howard will start on Tuesday, not Mitchell Traver, the 360 has learned.