While there may be no sure thing in baseball, senior closer Mike Morrison has been pretty close to that for Coastal Carolina this season.
So even as College of Charleston pushed across a run in the top of the ninth and put potential tying runs on base Wednesday, there didn’t seem to be any feeling of panic or tension in the ballpark.
And sure enough, Morrison answered with yet another clutch strikeout to lock down a 5-3 win for the Chanticleers over the visiting Cougars before a crowd of 1,291 at Springs Brooks Stadium.
There was perhaps a little extra significance to this one as well after College of Charleston (21-11-1) had taken two games earlier this season against the Chants (24-10) while winning the last five overall in the series and seven of the last nine.
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“It was good. Their place is a tough place to play – anyone in the country will tell you that – so for them to come to our place we thought we could get one from them,” Morrison said.
Added designated hitter G.K. Young: “It was a big win. I’ve been wanting to beat them for a while and it was an enjoyable win. I’ve been wanting to get after them.”
Sophomore right-hander Zack Hopeck gave the Chants a strong start, allowing just one run on five hits and one walk while picking up five strikeouts over five innings.
Billy Cooke led the offensive attack, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI, Connor Owings was 2-for-4, Matt Beaird was 1-for-1 with two RBIs and a run and Michael Paez and Young also drove in a run each.
It was a 2-2 game when Young teed off on a solo home run – his seventh of the season – to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning, the ball just barely sailing over the fence.
“I knew I caught it on the barrel and the way the wind was blowing today to right I was hoping it would get enough and get out, but I was fortunate enough it carried on out today,” he said.
Paez added an RBI double in the seventh, Cooke had an RBI single in the eighth and Morrison locked it down from there.
I tip my hat to them. They compete really well against us, they pitch really, really well against us and we were fortunate enough to be able to do enough today to get by.
Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore on his team ending its losing streak to College of Charleston
The standout senior allowed one unearned run on two hits over 3 1/3 innings to improve to 4-0 this season. He notched five strikeouts in the process while continuing to put up incredible numbers in his final season.
Morrison has now gone 28 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run while tallying 42 strikeouts in that span, in addition to shrinking his earned-run average to 0.54.
It took a little prodding Wednesday to get him to talk about that success as he preferred to defer to the collective work of the pitching staff and bullpen in particular.
“I honestly didn’t throw that much in the fall and I struggled a little bit off the get-go in the spring, and that NC State game [Feb. 20] I came in and was a little wild, walked two guys that game and Coach [Drew] Thomas wasn’t very happy with me,” Morrison said. “I told Bobby [Holmes] I had to turn it on a little bit or I might not be pitching at all, but we figured it out a little bit.”
The unearned run he allowed in the ninth was actually the first of any variety he’s given up in this superlative streak since his second outing Feb. 26 against Marshall.
After freezing Alex Pastorius and getting Bradley Dixon to go down swinging to open the ninth , Morrison found a little trouble while giving up back-to-back singles to Luke Manzo and Dupree Hart. Tommy Richter then hit a routine liner to shallow left that Anthony Marks seemed to lose sight of, misplaying the ball and allowing a run to come in to score.
It was initially ruled a hit before later being changed to an error after further review, and Morrison didn't seem rattled either way, coming right back with a strikeout of Morgan Phillips to end the game.
Afterward, he expressed no disappointment about having that potential third out turn into the first unearned run he's allowed since his second outing of the season.
“Ah, it’s alright, we got the win so it is what it is,” Morrison said.
Said coach Gary Gilmore: “I didn't want to have to use Morrison as much as I did, but we had to win one of those games sooner or later.”
Cougars starter Michael Carpin (3-2) took the loss after allowing three runs on six hits and a walk in six innings. Manzo led the visitors offensively, going 3-for-4 with a run scored while Bradley Jones was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
As for Coastal Carolina, Owings stretched his hitting streak to 13 games and is hitting a torrid .511 (23-of-45) during that stretch. Cooke, meanwhile, has reached base in 25 straight games and raised his batting average 14 points Wednesday to .364.
The Chants’ last win over College of Charleston came at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark back in 2014.
“I tip my hat to them. They compete really well against us, they pitch really, really well against us and we were fortunate enough to be able to do enough today to get by,” Gilmore said.