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Conway's Will Smith pitches in a game against Carolina Forest in 2019. Now a freshman at Coastal, Smith is expected to help the Chanticleers on the mound in 2020. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

For the first time in his 35 years of coaching baseball, Coastal Carolina's Gary Gilmore will have a lineup that relies heavily on young talent.
 
“There is a good possibility we will have at least four to five freshmen playing at one time,” said Gilmore, who is entering his 25th season as the Chanticleers skipper. “With that being said, I do believe in our freshmen and I think they’ve done a great job preparing for the season. They can only get better.”
 
Along with the youth, some experienced players will be returning. Key pitchers such as Zach McCambley and Scott Kobos will take charge on the mound for the Chanticleers this season. 
 
“Obviously we are really young this year compared to last year,” McCambley said. “I’m considered one of the older guys now being a third-year guy, so I’m being looked at to take those younger guys, those freshmen, under my wing.”
 
“This group is excited to learn,” Kobos added. “It’s always great to have a new fresh set of eyes on the game. They are all buying in.” 
 
The postseason last year was a wild one for Coastal. After losing the opening game in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on a walk-off, Coastal Carolina stormed back, winning five games in four days. That fifth win was a Sun Belt tournament championship.
 
Coastal then traveled to Atlanta for the NCAA regional, which featured Auburn, Georgia Tech and Florida A&M. Coastal held its own with Auburn for the longest time before the Tigers got ahead and finished off the Chanticleers 16-7.
 
Coastal bounced back with a 9-4 win over A&M, but a tough game versus Georgia Tech saw the Chants eliminated by a 9-8 loss.
 
“Last year, the season didn’t end the way we wanted [it] to,” Kobos said. “We hung in there with Auburn and Georgia Tech. Learning from those games, we know that we are capable of beating those kinds of teams and we have to execute better.”
 
It is because of those close games in the NCAA tournament that fans will see a more confident Chanticleer team on the diamond this spring.
 
“We’re coming back with a different mindset this year,” McCambley said. “It’s a better mindset and I think the success that we saw towards the tail end of last season really boosted our confidence.”
 
The possibility of achieving three straight summer championships will be a bit more difficult this year after the team found out that junior outfielder Parker Chavers will have to miss at least two months of the season due to an injury. 
 
“I don’t know if there is an adjustment that can be made,” Gilmore said. “I don’t think there’s anyone that can put up the numbers that he has put up for us in his first two years.”
 
“It was tough at first,” Chavers said. “This was not what I had envisioned going into this year, but at this point it is what it is and I’ve accepted it at this point. Now, it’s time for me to take on a new role and help out these younger guys.”
 
With that loss comes the opportunity for the freshmen to step up in a big way. 
 
“There are going to be learning curves of course,” Gilmore said. “They all learn at different paces and at different levels.” 
 
One of those youthful players who will look to make a name for himself early in his career as a Chanticleer is Conway High School’s very own Will Smith.
 
“I love the leadership they have here at Coastal and this is going to be a great experience for me,” Smith said. “It’s been a huge change adjusting to what goes into being a collegiate baseball player, but the good thing is I love being here and putting in that work nearly seven hours a day and I love the people that I’m working with.”
 
The Chanticleers will be doing a lot less deep traveling this year with their farthest away game outside of conference play being Georgia on April 28. That’s a huge change from the trips that were made last season, especially the big West Coast journey early in the year.
 
“With all the learning that needs to take place, we hope that we can use those extra days to our advantage,” Gilmore said. “The times where we have to leave a day early or miss a Monday workout, it adds up.”
 
Coastal Carolina opens the 2020 season at Springs Brooks Stadium against UNC-Greensboro on Feb. 14. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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