Despite trailing by four runs entering the ninth inning, the Coastal Carolina baseball team was never out of it.
The Chanticleers brought the potential game-winning run to the plate in the ninth inning, but werent able to capitalize as they fell to Pittsburgh 7-5 in the season opener Saturday at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.
I thought our kids continued to battle. Thats what its all about; not ever quitting, just keep scratching and clawing, Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. Offensively we got better as the game went on, but we missed some opportunities early in the game to give us a chance to win. Well have to come back tomorrow and keep scrapping.
The Panthers were strategic in scoring the seven runs, taking advantage of three CCU errors to score four unearned runs. But the big blow came in the seventh inning when Jordan Frabasilio hit a three-run home run to give Pittsburgh a 5-1 lead .
That was the difference in the game, Gilmore said. I dont even think he hit the ball very well but the wind picked it up and it kept travelling. But that one swing made a big difference in the game.
We have many things to work on. We have to get a lot better; but I tip my hat to [Pittsburgh]. Their starter did a real good job of throwing strikes and mixing his pitches. We had a lot of opportunities early and were unable to get a bunt or two down and were unable to get some things done to try and get a lead.
Former Conway High School standout G.K. Young went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in his collegiate debut for the Chants.
The adrenaline was high, Young said. It was amazing; probably one of the top feelings of my life to be honest with you.
Young, a two-time Class AAAA first-team All-State pick, set Conway High records for career RBIs (127), single-season home runs (13, which led the state in 2011) and career home runs (29). The designated hitter was also a three-time Toast of the Coast selection.
Its really an honor to get to come and be in my back yard, basically, and be playing for Coach Gilmore, Young said. Its been my dream since I was little to play for him and it came true being able to play for him my freshman year. ... But getting two hits in my first college game is pretty amazing.
Starter Ben Smith struck out 11, walked four and allowed one earned run as he picked up the loss. Smith got out of a first inning bases-loaded jam as he struck out first baseman Eric Hess to end the inning, but Smith still struck out three in the frame.
It was good. Hes obviously been a lot better, Gilmore said of Smith. He had a lot of strikeouts. It was uncharacteristic for him to have that many walks; it just drove his pitch count up. We had to go get him there and had about 100 pitches in the fourth inning. He was further along then we wanted him to. Hes our horse; this early in the year Im not going to ride him past where we had him. But again, uncharacteristic of him in that instance but it was wonderful to see him with the strikeouts as well. Its something hes been working on really hard to be able to get strikeouts and Im happy for that part. Im sure the other will straighten itself out as he continues to get outing after outing. I think he will get better commanding the strike zone at will.
Zach Remillard went 2-for-3, and Colin Hering finished 2-for-5 for Coastal, which outhit the Panthers 10-5.
We hit a bunch of balls on the screws. It wasnt enough in sequence, one after another, to create a big inning, Gilmore said.
The Chanticleers were without senior second baseman Jake Kane, who hit .287 with 23 RBIs last season, on Saturday as he is expected to miss some time due to a bad ankle sprain.
Catcher Holden Cammack will be limited early in the season and second baseman Jake Kane is battling a pair of injuries. Junior college transfer Reid Mathews is battling a wrist injury that he suffered in the fall and will not be available. Also, pitchers Patrick Corbett and Alex Cunningham will be sidelined.
Corbett, a Cape Cod All-Star this past summer, will be out for the season after having Tommy John surgery. Cunningham is not expected to return, but could be available near the end of the season.
Just right now I want to get better every day. Weve played seven or eight guys that have never played college baseball, said Gilmore, whose team takes on Pittsburgh in a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. We just have to get better each day, and its a long season. Were not there right now and it shows. [Sunday] will be a bigger test for us to see how we respond to getting punched.
Contact MAX MCKINNON at 626-0302.