The Coastal Carolina baseball team is off to an encouraging start this season while trying to maximize the potential of its young roster, but on Monday the Chanticleers simply ran into an Illinois team that is just a little deeper and a little more built for playing four straight days.
The Fighting Illini, who entered the day just outside the top 25 in various national polls, held the Chants to two hits and collected 12 of their own on the way to a 7-1 win at Springs Brooks Stadium.
Coastal Carolina (7-4) ran through seven pitchers in the game while finishing 2-2 during its four-day Chanticleer Classic tournament.
“I’ve coached 30 years in Division I baseball, that has to be one of the best collection of arms in college baseball – definitely one of the three best pitching staffs in all of college baseball right now. There’s no doubt,” Chants coach Gary Gilmore said of Illinois. “To play five games [here] and roll a guy out there throwing 92, 93 in the beginning of the game and finish the game with a first rounder, it’s pretty impressive.”
Cody Sedlock (2-0) earned the win for Illinois while throwing four hitless innings, allowing just one walk and striking out four in the process. And Tyler Jay, who is drawing buzz as a potential early-round draft prospect this summer, closed the game with three hitless innings of his own while striking out three for his third save of the year.
Offensively, the Illini (9-2-1) opened the game with a lead-off double to left field by Adam Walton and drove him in two batters later on a single to center by Reid Roper.
They then plated three more runs in the fourth. Roper hit a one-out double, Ryan Nagle reached on a fielding error by junior third baseman Zach Remillard (one of three errors for the Chants) and David Kerian followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0 and chase sophomore starter Cole Schaefer from the game.
Schaefer (0-1), making his season debut, would end up being charged with four earned runs in 3 1/3 innings as sophomore reliever Andrew Beckwith gave up a two-run double to Pat McInerney on the first pitch he threw to make it 4-0.
And that was more than the Chants could overcome on this day.
They had runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the fourth, but Sedlock struck out junior Tyler Chadwick and sophomore G.K. Young and got Remillard to foul out to end the inning.
Junior right fielder David Parrett hit his second home run of the season, a solo shot to left in the fifth, but that’s all Coastal Carolina would get.
Both of the Chants’ hits came off reliever Nick Blackburn while J.D. Nielsen and Jay followed out of the Illinois bullpen with 3 2/3 nearly perfect innings to close out the win.
“They did have a lot of arms and we [haven’t] really seen that kind of velocity this weekend,” Parrett said. “We’ve been seeing upper-70s, low-80s type of guys and they come out and throw out these 90s and I guess we just had a hard time adjusting.”
The hosts had runners on second and third with two outs in the sixth, but Nielsen got Remillard to fly out to end the inning.
Illinois padded its lead with a solo home run in the eighth from pinch-hitter Matthew James and a two-run single in the ninth from Nagle.
Roper finished 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs to lead the Illini offensively.
“We won’t play a better team than that all year, I don’t care how many games we play,” Gilmore said. “That was a very good team.”
Junior Connor Owings had the Chants’ other hit in the game – a double in the sixth – while reaching base for the 33rd straight game, dating back to last season. Sophomore Michael Paez, meanwhile, stretched his own streak to 23 straight games by getting hit by a pitch.
“I feel like overall we took a step backwards in just things [such as] we didn’t steal a base in four games, we didn’t get a bunt for a hit in four games, we did a lot of things that we can’t do and plan on winning very much. So we’re very fortunate to have won two games,” Gilmore said of the weekend.
“So we’ll keep working at it and try to get better. That was a good challenge. It’s good for us to see what we have to be able to do and how hard we have to work and how much better we have to be to be able to compete against [top teams]. That team right there, if they’re not ending up in the top 10 then they way underachieved.”