CCU defeats Texas State to keep season alive
Coastal Carolina kept its season alive Thursday afternoon, and in the process knocked top-seeded Texas State from the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship at Springs Brooks Stadium.
The Chanticleers overpowered the Bobcats and Sun Belt 2019 Pitcher of the Year Connor Reich with their potent offense, hitting four home runs in a 13-4 win in the elimination game.
Zach Biermann, Morgan Hyde and Parker Chavers all homered for the Chants – Biermann hit two – and five pitchers limited Texas State to seven hits.
Thursday’s win was the first of what will have to be five consecutive victories for Coastal to claim the tournament title and continue its season in an NCAA regional. It has made the NCAA playoffs in 15 of the past 18 years.
The fifth-seeded Chants (31-24-1), who blew leads in the eighth and ninth innings in a 10-inning loss to Texas-Arlington on Wednesday, will face the loser of Thursday night’s game between No. 10 Louisiana-Monroe and No. 4 Texas-Arlington in another elimination game scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“I’m very proud of my team after that emotionally draining and devastating loss last night, to come back here against the one seed and pitcher of the year in our league, to compete against him and find a way to win against him and their full bullpen,” Coastal coach Gary Gilmore said. “I thought our offense was outstanding.”
Though they won, the Chants hardy played a clean game.
Their pitchers walked seven and walked in two runs. They made a pair of errors on a pickoff attempt and ground ball to third base, and they failed to execute a sacrifice bunt to quickly kill an inning with a subsequent double play.
But the Chants had plenty of offense to make up for the transgressions on this occasion.
“It wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world but we found a way to win,” Gilmore said. “Our offense kept us in a position and we pitched just well enough not to surrender the lead, which was huge. . . . Outside of the walks, besides that part the rest of it was good. We didn’t give up a ton of hits. If we don’t walk guys we aren’t in trouble at all. We created the majority of our trouble.”
Biermann led off the bottom of the second inning with his 13th homer of the season to right field off an inside fastball and added a three-run shot to right in the eighth.
Hyde, a junior who joined the Chants this season after two years at smaller schools, hit his first Division I home run in his 41st at-bat, pulling a fastball well beyond the left field wall to give the Chants a 4-0 lead in the second inning.
“I was jogging down the first base line and as soon as I saw it go over the fence and they called it fair I couldn’t stop smiling,” Hyde said. “I rounded third base and had a big ole grin on my face. Everybody in the dugout was cheering. I got to home plate and almost got my head knocked off by some of the guys greeting me out there.”
Scott McKeon singled and Nick Lucky walked ahead of the homer by Hyde, who is batting .400 in his limited action behind junior left fielder Cameron Pearcey, though it’s not likely to be limited for the rest of the tournament.
“Cam Pearcey has been arguably one of our very best players the whole year,” Gilmore said. “He has kind of floundered a little bit here in the last two or three weeks and just opened up some opportunities for me to shove Morgan in there because every time I brought him off the bench he was not just having good at-bats . . . they were all hits.
“I felt I had to get him in the lineup and he’s arguably our best all-around outfield guy too.”
Chavers hit his solo shot as part of three-run seventh inning that also included an RBI double by Cory Wood and run-scoring single by Kieton Rivers.
Reich, who entered the game 8-1 with a 3.96 earned-run average this season, allowed seven earned runs on eight hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings.
Texas State (36-20), which was outscored 21-4 in its losses to CCU and Louisiana-Monroe, made the game interesting by taking advantage of some wildness from Coastal pitchers to cut a four-run deficit to one with a pair in the fourth and one in the fifth.
CCU junior starter Scott Kobos was lifted after allowing a walk and one-out single in the fourth. Trevor Damron then recorded an out before walking two batters to force in a run and was pulled with a 1-0 count on Ryan Newman, and Alaska Abney proceeded to throw three straight balls to walk in a second run before inducing a popup to leave the bases loaded. A pair of leadoff singles led to a Bobcats run in the fifth.
But CCU responded with three in the bottom of the fifth by taking advantage of Texas State wildness, as Wright singled, Skeels, Biermann and Chavers all walked in succession, and McKeon knocked in two runs with a single up the middle.
Coastal hit four homers for the fourth time this season, and a player has now hit two homers in a game five times.
“We have a great hitting offense, and when we’re all clicking like we have been the last few days it’s deadly,” Hyde said.
UT-Arlington 9, CCU 8
In Coastal’s first game of the tournament on Wednesday, Texas-Arlington scored a combined four unearned runs in the eighth and ninth innings following a pair of 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 to take a 9-8 win in 10.
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.
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.
Coastal took a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning after 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.”
After relievers allowed five runs in the bottom of the eighth, Coastal overcame a three-run deficit with five runs of its own in the ninth inning.
Sophomore Jared Johnson began the ninth-inning rally with a one-out pinch-hit single. Wood walked, 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 Chavers. 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 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.