The first Mississippi team to win an NCAA Division I National Championship in the 21st century will most likely play baseball.
It could have happened this year, last year or the year before that. It could happen next year.
If Coastal Carolina can do it, why can’t one of the Mississippi teams?
Little Coastal Carolina, which had never even played in a College World Series, won the 2016 version in storybook fashion, coming through the losers bracket to knock off college baseball aristocrat Arizona.
This is Coastal Carolina, which was ranked behind both Ole Miss and Mississippi State and just ahead of Southern Miss in power ratings at the end of the regular season.
This is Coastal Carolina, with an enrollment of approximately 9,000 and an average baseball attendance of about 1,500.
This is Coastal Carolina, which is moving up, as of today, from the Big South Conference to the Sun Belt.
This is Coastal Carolina, which was once a junior college feeder of South Carolina.
These are the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, who have had sports fans, sportscasters and sports writers in full Google mode, trying to learn just what in the devil is a Chanticleer.
For those who don’t know, a Chanticleer – pronounced SHON-ti-cleer – is a proud and fierce rooster.
But you, as I, probably wondered: Why would a school choose a Chanticleer as a mascot? The answer is a story itself. Coastal Carolina teams originally were known as Trojans. But school officials and students wanted something that more closely aligned the school with its parent school, South Carolina, whose teams are known as the Gamecocks. Chanticleers and Gamecocks are both roosters. So there you have it. Almost.
An English professor was involved in the selection of Coastal’s new mascot name. The English professor was a fan of Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th century poet often referred to as the father of English literature. Chaucer wrote about Chanticleer in The Canterbury Tales, which your junior high teacher made you read and which you, as I, have long since forgotten.
Anyway, that’s how it is that our national championship baseball team is known as the Chanticleers, or Chants for short.
But back to my original point: The first Mississippi Division I national champion will likely come in baseball. Mississippi teams have the facilities. They have winning traditions. They have the support. Mississippi high school and junior college baseball are both excellent recruiting sources..
Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss all have been to the College World Series in the past seven seasons. State made it to the final series in 2013.
Coastal Carolina’s Cinderella run reminded this writer much of Southern Miss’s College World Series visit in 2009. Coastal had to win at SEC powerhouse LSU in the Super Regional. USM had to win at Florida. Both were making their first CWS appearance. Both Coastal and that 2009 USM team were coached by popular, veteran coaches (Corky Palmer at USM, Gary Gilmore at Coastal).
Both opened the World Series against heavily favored teams. Coastal edged Florida 2-1. Southern Miss had No. 1 ranked Texas on the ropes before losing 7-6.
That’s baseball. Southern Miss could have gotten hot and won it in 2009. Same goes for State in 2013 or Ole Miss in 2014. In baseball, it’s all about playing your best baseball at the most important time. You don’t have to have a 100,000-seat stadium. You don’t have to have a team filled with 4- and 5-star recruits. (Most of those go pro anyway.)
No, you just have to be a well-coached, fundamentally sound team with consistent pitching and timely hitting. Witness, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.
Rick Cleveland writes a weekly sports column running Fridays at Mississippitoday.org.