Raleigh Region one to watch as CWS opens
The Big South typically doesn’t generate a lot of waves at the College World Series. That could all change, however, in 2016.
Coastal Carolina, which concluded conference action with 21 wins, stands poised to take the Raleigh Region by storm. Not only will the Chanticleers slug with the best of them, few schools are capable of matching manager Gary Gilmore’s one-two punch on the hill. Junior Andrew Beckwith went 10-1 with a 1.79 ERA, making five starts and 15 relief appearances. As for local product Alex Cunningham, he boasts a 94 mph fastball that MLB scouts already adore.
The quartet’s No. 1 seed, though, is host NC State. Don’t obsess over the relatively pedestrian 35-20 record, because the Wolfpack played the second-toughest schedule in the country. Preston Palmeiro (.327 batting average with eight home runs) anchors a potent lineup, but Elliott Avent’s staff faces multiple health concerns. Neither Ryan Williamson nor Joe O’Donnell can be counted on to eat major innings.
Navy (42-14, 15-5 in Patriot League) needn’t worry about such a thing with Luke Gillingham. The senior lefty holds opposing hitters to a .191 mark and racks up complete games as if they’re trading cards. Still, a popgun offensive attack limits the Midshipmen’s chances here.
Nobody seems to give much consideration to St. Mary’s (33-23, 18-9 West Coast Conference), but righty Corbin Burnes appears likely to boost his pro stock even further. The flamethrower has registered 112 strikeouts across 97 frames. He’ll lean on every bit of that velocity to lengthen the Gaels’ campaign.
When the dust settles, we prefer Coastal Carolina and its balance from top to bottom. NC State’s simply not as dangerous as experts believed at the beginning of March. Get ready for that Super Regional berth, Myrtle Beach.
RALEIGH REGIONAL FREE PICK: COASTAL CAROLINA