Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore admits his team isn’t quite where he wants it to be.
And neither is the weather.
Still, the Chanticleers have been racking up wins early in the season and did so in dramatic fashion on Sunday, beating Ball State 7-6 in the 10th inning on a cold afternoon with temperatures dropping to the lower 30s.
“Absolutely [an uplifting win]. But I do think I need to go into a different profession, though. I’m going to be the next weatherman somewhere because you can be wrong with the weather so much and still have a job. The forecast today was originally partly sunny and 60 degrees. They were about 20 degrees off, if not more. It was flat out cold out there,” said Gilmore, whose team improved to 7-3. “But we were very fortunate to win, obviously very happy that we won. We just continually do some of the same things that get us into these situations where we had to have some type of heroic act. It’s great we’ve been able to do it a couple of times, but it’s also frustrating for me that we have too many walks when we go to the bullpen or start or whatever.”
Coastal jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning and stayed in front until pitcher and designated hitter Zach Plesac hit a two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game, 5-4.
In the ninth inning, Michael Paez hit a single and reached third on an error by center fielder Matt Eppers. Then, Tyler Chadwick drove in Paez on an RBI single to tie it up 5-all at the end of regulation.
“I knew one at-bat could get us a run. I just wanted to get a good at-bat and the center fielder helped us out, let me get to third and Chadwick does it every time; he’s clutch and he came through,” Paez said.
Ball State’s Alex Maloney hit an RBI single in the top of the 10th as the Cardinals regained the lead, 6-5.
It left the Chanticleers needing someone to step up and Paez did just that.
After Connor Owings hit an RBI single to tie it up, Paez hit the game-winning RBI double to give Coastal its second walk-off victory in three games.
“It felt great. We pride ourselves in picking each other up,” Paez said. “Getting that win shows what we work on every day. It felt good.”
Paez finished 2-for-5, Zach Remillard and Owings were each 2-for-4, and Chadwick was 1-for-2 with an RBI, a run scored and drew three walks. Junior Anthony Marks went 1-for-4 with a two-RBI double in the four-run third inning.
Meanwhile, Zack Hopeck did well in his start, allowing one run on five hits in six innings and struck out two for a no-decision. Reliever Tyler Poole struck out two, gave up four runs, scattered two hits and walked three in three innings.
Austin Kerr picked up the win as he allowed one run on one hit and one walk in one inning.
“I thought Hopeck did a great job. He was in and out, changing speeds and that kid has been like that virtually every time we put him out there. I can’t say enough about him,” Gilmore said. “Tyler struggled a little bit today and fought it. Kerr threw a good inning for us, even though we gave up a run. That lead-off walk late in the game [can] get you and we’re very lucky that didn’t beat us. Those are some things we can control better. … Whenever we struggle, it’s been because of our lack of command of the baseball. We’ve got a lot of things we need to work on and get better. I have to coach better but we need to execute, too.”
BJ Butler received the loss for Ball State (5-5) as he allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings. Alex Maloney was the only player with multiple hits for the Cardinals as he went 2-for-5.
“Obviously part of the credit needs to go to Ball State; they did things and made it difficult for us. It was a great college baseball game,” Gilmore said. “We had it under control for a while, then they opened the door and took the lead, then we found a way to come back. Then they took it away from us, and then we were able to come back again. There are a lot of positives to be said for that; I’m surely not upset about the effort or the outcome, but we need to continue to improve if we’re going to end up being a good team.”
Coastal will take on No. 25 Illinois on Monday at noon in what Marks calls the toughest matchup the Chanticleers have had so far.
“It’s going to be a dogfight, 100 percent a dogfight,” Marks said. “[Illinois] is probably one of the best teams we’ll see. Like we did after [the win over] West Virginia, we can’t get complacent with a good win. We can’t be sluggish; everyone needs to get a good night’s sleep and we need to come out ready to go because they’re going to come out ready to go, too.”