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CCU baseball turns attention from Clemson loss to big Sun Belt Conference home series

Coastal Carolina has lost a few pitchers to injury this season, though Jason Bilous (pictured) has been one of the more consistent performers on the mound, going 7-2 with a 3.08 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched.
Coastal Carolina has lost a few pitchers to injury this season, though Jason Bilous (pictured) has been one of the more consistent performers on the mound, going 7-2 with a 3.08 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched. jlee@thesunnews.com

It shouldn’t take Coastal’s baseball team long to move on from its disappointing 6-1 loss at Clemson on Tuesday night, in which the Chanticleers had just three hits.

Coastal has a key Sun Belt Conference series this weekend against South Alabama at Springs Brooks Stadium that could be a significant factor in determining the conference’s East Division and possibly overall regular season champion.

South Alabama is the reigning Sun Belt tournament champion – which made it the lone team from the conference to participate in an NCAA regional – and was picked ahead of the Chants to win the East Division.

Coastal (21-10) is off to an 8-1 conference start with three-game sweeps of Arkansas State and Texas State, and a 2-1 series win last weekend at Georgia Southern.

South Alabama (16-11) is coming off a home sweep of Appalachian State last weekend to improve to 6-2 in the conference, with one cancellation or postponement.

The games are scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday – which should give fans an opportunity to catch the baseball game and Coastal’s spring football game at 8 p.m. at Brooks Stadium – 2 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Coastal has ridden one of the nation’s top offenses to a No. 18 national ranking by Baseball America.

Entering Tuesday’s game, Coastal led the NCAA with 80 doubles and also ranked second nationally with both 182 walks drawn and 263 runs scored, ranked fourth in scoring at 8.8 runs per game, eighth in hits with 307 and home runs with 41, and ninth in slugging percentage at .501 and one-base percentage at .411.

Individually, senior infielder Seth Lancaster of Hanahan ranked third nationally with 41 runs scored, fourth with 14 doubles and fifth with 28 walks drawn. Senior first baseman Kevin Woodall Jr. of Georgetown ranked fifth in both home runs with 12 and RBI with 38.

The offense didn’t travel to Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, however.

Freshman Spencer Strider held the Chants hitless through six innings and Clemson avenged a March 20 walk-off loss on Lee Sponseller’s ninth-inning grand slam in the first game of a home-and-home series that is expected to continue for the coming years between the baseball powers at opposite ends of the state.

Clemson got four home runs Tuesday from Chris Williams, Jordan Greene, Logan Davidson and Grayson Byrd, and five Coastal pitchers walked nine batters, allowing Clemson to score its six runs on six hits.

Coastal is 10-45 all-time against the eighth-ranked Tigers (23-6) and fell to 5-34 at Clemson. The Chants have been more competitive in recent years against the Tigers, splitting the past four games and going 4-7 in the past 11 games since 2010.

Clemson was coming off a three-game sweep of Boston College in an ACC series, and the Chants lost their second straight after taking two of three from Georgia Southern over the weekend.

Tuesday’s loss was just the third of Coastal’s 10 this season that came by more than two runs.

Coastal left the bases loaded in a ninth inning that featured a leadoff double by Cory Wood, walk by Lancaster and two-out hit-by-pitch by Sponseller. Kieton Rivers, who knocked in CCU’s only run, grounded out to end the game.

Coastal got two of its three hits and scored its lone run in the seventh on Rivers’ RBI single that scored Zach Biermann, who had walked.

But the inning could have been more damaging had Sponseller not run into an out following his single to right field, as he was caught between first and second with Biermann on second base and was thrown out. Rivers was also caught stealing to end the inning.

Freshman Shaddon Peavyhouse (1-3) made his first career start and went three innings, allowing just one run and one hit – a leadoff home run in the second inning by Williams – and four walks with two strikeouts.

Freshman lefty Trevor Damron relieved in the fourth and gave up back-to-back home runs to left field, a two-run homer Greene out of the No. 9 spot following a walk, and solo shot by Davidson. The Tigers held a 4-0 lead with just three hits.

Clemson added two runs in the seventh to answer Coastal’s run on Byrd’s homer and an RBI double by Seth Beer.

Patrick Orlando, a sophomore at CCU who played at Carolina Forest High, entered with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh and got a fly out to end the inning, and didn't allow a baserunner in 1 1/3 innings. Conway High product and sophomore lefty Jay Causey also pitched well, throwing 1 2/3 innings without allowing a hit while striking out two.

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