The response continues to be beyond anything coach Gary Gilmore could have expected since his Coastal Carolina baseball team advanced to the College World Series for the first time.
By Wednesday afternoon, he said he was up to more than 700 congratulatory text messages.
“I can’t even scroll back far enough to get back to the beginning. I mean, it’s insane,” Gilmore said. “That’s unbelievable, to think of how many of them think enough about this program and chasing this dream that it’s been that infectious in and among the whole group, it’s incredible.”
And yet, this all still hasn’t fully hit him, he said.
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Not until he and the team got to Omaha, Neb., on Thursday and start going through the pre-tournament events Friday. Not until he sees it with his own eyes.
“I think for me personally it will be way more overwhelming when I get there and all the festivities of Omaha are upon us and you really realize what it’s all about,” he said.
For 21 years, Gilmore had refused to go to the College World Series until he was coaching one of the teams playing in it.
On Thursday morning the Chants ran through one last practice back on campus, then headed to Omaha.
And Gilmore wasn’t the only one still processing that reality.
“It’s funny, we’ve been joking about there’s only eight teams left, but it’s starting to get realistic now,” senior right fielder Connor Owings from Gilbert said. “We’re all going to be competing for a national championship. We’ve got a real opportunity to prove how we play baseball and go win a national championship.”
On Sunday, the Chants (49-16) meet the top-seeded Gators (52-14), who boast one of the most impressive pitching staffs in the country.
Florida features the No. 6 overall pick from the MLB Draft last week in left-hander A.J. Puk (2-3, 3.05 ERA, 101 strikeouts in 73.2 innings), but Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said junior righty Logan Shore (12-0, 2.24 ERA) – the 47th overall pick in the draft and the SEC Pitcher of the Year – will start against the Chants.
Coastal Carolina will counter with an offensive roster that leads NCAA Division I with 94 home runs. Senior third baseman Zach Remillard leads that power brigade with 19 homers and 69 RBIs.
Gilmore didn’t name a starting pitcher, though it is a safe bet that one of the team’s junior righties -- Andrew Beckwith (12-1, 2.12) or Alex Cunningham (9-3, 3.58) -- will draw the assignment.
As Gilmore addressed the team in the dugout prior to practice Wednesday, his message was a simple, now that the Chants are here, they need to keep striving for more and not be satisfied yet.
They’ve already gone further than any team in program history, why stop here?
“We’re just going to compete and play the way we have for the last three or four weeks. There’s absolutely nothing to hold us back,” Gilmore said.
College World Series
Who: Coastal Carolina vs. Florida
Where: TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
When: 8 p.m., Sunday