Could Davidson be this years version of Coastal Carolina?

The Wildcats success in Chapel Hill this weekend has earned them a Super Regional date against Texas A&M and evoked comparisons with last seasons unlikely college baseball national champions

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Davidson second baseman Alec Acosta hustles on the bases during an NCAA regional victory at North Carolina last weekend

CHAPEL HILL — Davidson was seeded sixth in its eight-team conference tournament and had to rally from four runs down in the final three innings to escape elimination in a loser’s bracket game against St. Louis.Two weeks later, the Wildcats are one of the 16 teams left with a chance at winning college baseball’s national championship.Coach Dick Cooke’s team stunned top-seeded and second-ranked North Carolina twice in three days, punctuated by a dramatic 2-1 victory Sunday, to win the first NCAA regional in school history.The Wildcats’ success in Chapel Hill has earned them a Super Regional date against Texas A&M next week and has begun to evoke at least a few audible whispers about their chances of becoming this year’s version of unlikely 2016 national champ Coastal Carolina.”It’s a far reaching concept.” Cooke said shortly after watching his players dogpile on the infield at UNC’s Boshamer Stadium. “There aren’t a lot of programs in the country who say if we don’t get to the Super it’s a disappointing year. There’s some who say if we don’t get deep into Omaha it’s a disappointing year. We’re not in that boat.”Davidson had never been to a regional, let alone won one, before arriving at UNC on Friday. But they rode some sterling starting pitching of Durin O’Linger, Evan Roberts and Josh Hudson, spotless defense and some unexpected offensive contributions from the bottom of its order to breeze through the double-elimination tournament without a loss.The Wildcats (35-24) sandwiched a win against second-seeded Florida Gulf Coast between their two upsets of the Tar Heels.It’s an accomplishment that still hadn’t completely sunk in for Cooke as he addressed the media Sunday night following the most important win of a career that has spanned 27 seasons, 566 wins and survived a near-fatal car accident in 2013.”It will take a little bit of time,” he said. ” It took a little bit of time to regroup from (beating UNC) Friday in the first one. When we get back home and start practicing, it’s probably going to hit again when we take BP in the place where we’re headed. That in itself is a strange comment for me to make on June 4.”Davidson will again be a decided underdog when it travels to take on the Aggies in a best-of-three series that will determine which teams goes to Omaha. But it won’t lack for confidence, especially after going to UNC and doing “something pretty special,” as Tar Heels coach Mike Fox described it.The Wildcats can also take encouragement from the championship run put together a year ago by fellow “little guy” Coastal Carolina — which knocked off LSU in the Super Regional before taking out fellow blue bloods Florida, TCU and Arizona on the way to the title in Omaha.At the same time, though, it would be a reach to suggest anything more than just a marginal parallel between this Davidson team and those Chanticleers.Though both come from non-power conferences, Coastal was a frequent NCAA tournament participant that had hosted and won multiple regionals before catching lightning in a bottle and winning it all last June. The Wildcats, by contrast, are in their first NCAA tournament and their 34 wins this season are the most in the 115-year history of their program.But like the Chanticleers, Davidson features a roster built around a core of talented seniors, including first-team All-Atlantic 10 right fielder Will Robertson, first baseman Brian Fortier and pitching ace O’Linger. It’s a group that clearly isn’t intimidated by either its surrounding or the moment.And they’re not ready to start patting themselves on the back just yet.”Everyone is a daydreamer, but if you daydream too much you get lost in the reality of what’s going on,” said O’Linger, who picked up the win in Davidson’s 8-4 win against the Tar Heels on Friday and the save in Sunday’s clincher.”Like Coach Cooke said, you don’t look too far ahead. It really is cliché, but you take one pitch at a time, one inning at a time. You build off that. Obviously this team has a lot of potential. I’ve been here for five years and this is by far the most potential we’ve had as a team. It’s been a lot of fun watch these guys play.”