Coastal Carolina reacts to wild game against UT-Arlington
A number of Coastal Carolina’s losses during a tough second half of the season could have been considered demoralizing – either because the Chanticleers surrendered a late lead or were blown out.
But none were more damaging than their wild loss Wednesday in their opening game of the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship at Springs Brooks Stadium.
A couple weaknesses that have persisted this season both cost the Chants dearly, as porous infield defense and an inability to close out a game on the mound have the Chanticleers on the verge of elimination – from the conference tournament and the 2019 season.
Texas-Arlington scored a combined four unearned runs in the eighth and ninth innings following errors at third base – the final two runs in the ninth scoring on wild pitches – and scored eight runs in the game’s final three innings and take a 9-8 win in 10 innings.
The Chants had rallied with five runs in the top of the ninth inning to take a two-run lead but were unable to hold off the Mavericks (32-24).
“I thought we had the game in hand, gave it away. Got it back, gave it away again,” Coastal coach Gary Gilmore said. “You have to tip your hat to them, giving it away doesn’t mean they didn’t earn it, but it’s just very frustrating how it turned out. It’s kind of a microcosm of our whole entire second half of the season right there.”
Coastal (30-24-1), the fifth seed in the double-elimination tournament, will face the loser of Wednesday’s nightcap between top-seeded Texas State and No. 10 Louisiana-Monroe in an elimination game at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Coastal is now 12-20 in its last 32 games.
The Chants must win five consecutive games to claim the tournament title and continue their season in an NCAA regional. They have made the NCAA playoffs in 15 of the past 18 years.
“The kids came out and tried to put the last 30 games behind them emotionally,” Gilmore said. “They played hard, they never gave up, they competed the whole time. At the end of the day, the game of baseball is about making plays you should make, it’s about making pitches you should make, it’s about when you get momentum, doing things to not give momentum immediately back. For whatever reason we have lost the ability to do that.
“. . . Our offense is a good enough offense to take us to Omaha.”
UT-Arlington scored the winning run on a one-out RBI single to right field by Zac Cook that scored Aaron Funk just ahead of the tag of catcher Kyle Skeels. Funk had singled and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.
After allowing five runs in the bottom of the eighth, Coastal overcame a three-run deficit with five runs of its own in the ninth inning.
“Offensively we know nobody can stop us, and getting down 6-3 in our own ballpark nobody’s going to quit and we know we can score with the best of anybody,” senior first baseman Zach Biermann said. “So it’s just collectively we came together and we decided we’re going to put some runs up here and we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win this game.”
Sophomore Jared Johnson began the ninth-inning rally with a one-out pinch-hit single. Cory Wood walked, Kieton Rivers singled to score Johnson, Jake Wright singled to load the bases and Skeels singled to score Wood.
Biermann got the team’s biggest hit of the season, driving in the tying and go-ahead runs with a single to right field on a 3-2 pitch. Keels scored to give CCU a two-run lead on a sacrifice fly by Parker Chavers. Scott McKeon followed with an infield single but Biermann was tagged out in a rundown between third base and home to end the inning.
Texas-Arlington tied the game in the bottom of the ninth off sophomore Zach McCambley, loading the bases on a hit by pitch, single and error by freshman Nick Lucky at third base on a potential double play grounder, and scoring on a pair of wild pitches sandwiched around a flyout and intentional walk.
McCambley got the next two batters with a strikeout and groundout to strand runners at second and third and force extra innings.
Coastal took a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning.
But UTA rallied against Coastal senior reliever Matt Eardensohn, who had the fifth-lowest earned-run average in the Sun Belt entering the game.
Connor Aube, Cook and Anthony Dominguez all singled leading off the inning. Aube scored on Dominguez’s single and Cook scored on a groundout. After an intentional walk, an error by third baseman Mike Koenig allowed Dominguez to score and led to two more unearned runs on a two-run single by pinch hitter Justin Marino off McCambley.
Both team’s starters pitched well.
CCU junior lefty Anthony Veneziano (5-2) gave the Chants an outing they were desperately seeking, going seven innings and allowing one run on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. He threw 99 pitches and ended four innings with punch outs and one with a double play.
“Anthony Veneziano can’t pitch no better than he pitched. I mean he was awesome, absolutely awesome,” Gilmore said. “We’ve been waiting all year for him to be that guy and he’s progressed and progressed and progressed.”
The Chants faced starter Drew Gooch (3-3), whose 3.74 ERA is the eighth best in the Sun Belt. He allowed three runs – one earned – on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
His three runs allowed came in the sixth inning.
Wood led off the inning with a lined single up the middle, and Rivers reached on a throwing error when Gooch’s toss to first on his bunt up the first-base line was low and Rivers’ foot knocked the glove off first baseman Dylan Paul as he reached the bag.
Wood scored on a Wright single to right field and Skeels surrendered the first out of the inning with a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Chavers lined a two-run single to centerfield.
“We knew we were in for a dogfight playing those guys and facing who we were facing on the mound. It didn’t look good there for a little bit,” UTA Coach Darin Thomas said. “We just fought, and that’s all you can do this time of year is fight, be resilient and get after people.”
Aube got the Mavericks on the board with home run leading off the bottom of the sixth.
The Chants threatened with two runners on and one out in the seventh following singles by Mike Koenig and pinch hitter Morgan Hyde, but Wood flied out and Rivers struck out.
UTA also had two on and one out in the bottom of the seventh on a single and hit by pitch, but Veneziano struck out the next two batters to preserve a two-run lead for the time being.
The Chants also had two runners on in the eighth with two outs but McKeon grounded out to Paul at first base.
“Especially in this league this year, anything can go anybody’s way, and it just seems the ball’s not bouncing our way a couple times down the [stretch],” Biermann said.
Gilmore said he planned to start McCambley on the mound Thursday but he threw 1 1/3 innings Wednesday night, so he’ll look to someone else.
“Hopefully tomorrow somehow we can find a way to compete, win a game and take a deep breath,” Gilmore said. “. . . We’ll see if we can get somebody else to step up like [Veneziano] and put ourselves in that position again.”
Game 1: No. 10 Louisiana-Monroe 12, No. 7 South Alabama 7
Game 2: No. 8 Louisiana 6, No. 9 Appalachian State 2
Game 3: No. 3 Little Rock 6, No. 6 Troy 5
Game 4: No. 2 Georgia Southern 6, No. 9 Louisiana 5 (13 innings)
Game 5: No. 4 UT Arlington 9, No. 5 Coastal Carolina 8 (10 innings)
Game 6: No. 10 ULM 8, No. 1 Texas State 0
Game 7: 9 a.m. (ESPN+) - Troy vs. Louisiana
Game 8: 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - Coastal Carolina vs. Texas State
Game 9: 4 p.m. (ESPN+) - Little Rock vs. Georgia Southern
Game 10: 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - Georgia Southern vs. ULM
Game 11: 3 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 7 vs. Loser Game 9
Game 12: 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 8 vs. Loser Game 10
Game 13: 9 a.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 11
Game 14: 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 12
*Game 15: 4 p.m. (ESPN+) - Winner Game 13 vs. Loser Game 13 (if necessary)
#Game 16: 7:30 p.m. ^ (ESPN+) - Winner Game 14 vs. Loser Game 14 (if necessary)
Championship game: 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
* Game 15 is necessary if the winner of Game 11 also wins Game 13.
# Game 16 is necessary if the winner of Game 12 also wins Game 14.
^ If Game 15 is not necessary and Game 16 is necessary, Game 16 shall begin 75 minutes after the conclusion of Game 14.