'Best $20 we ever spent': Not a Rally Possum, but CCU's Rafiki carries surging Chanticleers to Baton Rouge _lowres

'Rafiki' has served as quite the good luck charm for the Coastal Carolina baseball team since his addition to the Chanticleers? dugout a few weeks ago. Ryan Young ryoung@thesunnews.com

CONWAY - While the LSU baseball team has turned the Rally Possum into a legend over the last month or so, with it even getting discussed on ESPN, Coastal Carolina is bringing its own good luck charm to the teams’ NCAA super regional series in Baton Rouge this weekend.

A large stuffed monkey named “Rafiki” – or just “Fiki” for those on a more personal level – has accompanied the Chanticleers since they got swept in a three-game series at Georgia Tech in late April, and in that time the team has proceeded to win 16 of its last 18 games.

“Rafiki” doesn’t have the same national profile as his LSU counterpart, but after his guest appearance during the Chants’ postgame news conference Tuesday as they won their NCAA regional in Raleigh, N.C. (below), there has been heightened interest and questions as to his background.

And sophomore relief pitcher Bobby Holmes – Rafiki’s keeper/travel companion – was happy to provide the answers Thursday.

“We got it after Georgia Tech because we got swept and [pitching coach Drew Thomas] said we needed something to spark us back up,” Holmes explained. “So sure enough we scored like 48 runs up at Liberty [the next weekend], and Fiki has just been growing. He’s recently got some pants on him. He wears [Connor Owings'] jersey. One of our grounds crew guys made him a bat. We feed him before every game. He obviously likes bananas, but he’ll pretty much eat everything. He sleeps through most things. When we really need him to rally us up you can hear me screaming at him to wake up.”

Rafiki was purchased at a truck stop on the way home from Atlanta and sophomore Dalton Ewing was the one to suggest the name.

“I really didn’t like it at first, but Rafiki stuck,” Holmes said. “I think he was like $20 and it was the best $20 we ever spent.”

Call it coincidence or whatever, but the Chants have been on a roll since that Georgia Tech series, suffering only a loss at Charleston Southern and one to N.C. State during the regionals last week.

“I don’t think anybody knows it, but the Rally Possum and the rally monkey literally have the same exact record,” Holmes said. “The possum’s gotten a lot more publicity than Fiki, but Fiki’s all right with that.”

The Rally Possum became a sensation for LSU after a live possum ran onto the field on May 7 with the Tigers trailing Arkansas 9-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning before they then rallied to win, 10-9 in 10 innings. The team is 16-3 since the possum’s appearance, and the ensuing craze has spawned t-shirts and even a song, with stuffed possums not hard to find these days around Alex Box Stadium.

The legend of Rafiki may not be to that level yet, but it will be hard to forget the image of Chants coach Gary Gilmore with his arm around a stuffed monkey and a big smile on his face while discussing the biggest win in six years for his program.

“His made his first live TV appearance at the conference tournament and he wanted to get thrown in there [Tuesday],” Holmes said. “... Sure enough Gilley embraced him in the postgame [news conference] and he’s taken off since then.”

This story was originally reported by The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News on MyrtleBeachOnline.com

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