Perhaps nothing signifies that spring is near as much as the start of Cougar baseball, which began this past weekend with the team sweeping Southeast Missouri State three games to none.

“We’ve been out here since late August, putting in a lot of work and effort, so it’s great for us coaches to see the players enjoy themselves,” says Coach Chad Holbrook. “It’s an exciting time of year to be a college baseball coach and college baseball player. Opening day is like Christmas morning.”

Santa himself couldn’t have delivered a better present than the opening sweep. It was a nice confidence boost as the Cougars get set to take on in-state rival – and 2016 College World Series champs – Coastal Carolina at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, at Patriots Point.

“That’s always a big game,” says Holbrook. “It’s a great rivalry with some big battles in the state tournament and the regular season. They have a great program, but we feel the College of Charleston has a great baseball tradition as well.”

RELATED: Get to know CofC baseball coach Chad Holbrook.

Holbrook hopes to continue that tradition in his first year as coach. After four years playing for UNC Chapel Hill, and another 15 years on the coaching staff there, the Greenville native became the associate baseball coach at the University of South Carolina in 2008, helping the Gamecocks to win back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011. Two years later, Holbrook took over as head coach until arriving at CofC last August.

“It’s the same sport I’ve been coaching for 24 years, just different kids and a different city, but I love Charleston and I love the kids in the program,” he says. “The fun for us as coaches is watching the joy that the players get competing against other teams.”

The Cougars finished fifth in the CAA last year with a 28-31 record, but they’re poised for a stronger season this year. With all but two players returning, an experienced team is on the field, led by redshirt junior Logan McRae, the CAA Preseason Player of the Year who had 17 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .310 batting average in 2017.

“I think we’re going to surprise some people,” says McRae, who’s from Florence, South Carolina. “When we start winning some games, people will be like, ‘Maybe we need to watch out for the College of Charleston.’ We’ve got a great group of guys and the best coaches around. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Of course, the goal this season is to win the CAA Championship, which the team last accomplished in 2014, and make it to the NCAA tournament, where they’ve won the Regional twice, in 2006 and 2014, before finishing second in the Super Regional both times and just missing a trip to the College World Series.

“I hate to use generic coach-speak, but outside of winning our conference, I just want the team to reach its full potential,” says Holbrook. “I don’t know what that potential is yet, but I want to look back after the year and say, ‘That was about as good as we could play.’”