Coastal talks about a wild walk-off win over UT Arlington
Coastal Carolina’s relentless offense powered the Chanticleers within two games of the Sun Belt Conference Baseball tournament title Saturday afternoon.
The Chants pounded Louisiana-Monroe 26-10 to force its second elimination semifinal game against the Warhawks on Saturday night at Springs Brooks Stadium, setting a record for the most runs scored in a Sun Belt tournament game.
Georgia Southern is awaiting the winner for Sunday afternoon’s 1 p.m. championship game and will have a decided advantage, having played only three games this week compared to the five played by either fifth-seeded Coastal or 10th-seeded ULM.
Coastal outlasted Texas-Arlington 14-13 in 10 innings Friday night to stave off elimination for a second straight game, and has bashed 61 runs and 68 hits in its first four tournament games including 14 home runs in its last three games. Both Kieton Rivers and Jake Wright hit two homers Saturday afternoon and Cameron Pearcey hit a grand slam.
ULM had lost two straight and four of its final six games to enter the tournament at 24-29 overall and 12-17 in the conference, but ULM beat No. 7 South Alabama, No. 1 Texas State and No. 4 UT Arlington by a combined 38-12 to reach the semifinals.
With the pitching staff depleted after three long games in three days including a pair of extra-inning affairs – 11 pitchers made 15 combined appearances in the three games – Coastal needed innings from junior starter Austin Kitchen.
CCU coach Gary Gilmore stayed with Kitchen as long as he could but pulled him after 3 2/3 innings, nine runs, 11 hits and a career-high 111 pitches.
Redshirt freshman Kiernan Higgins, the only other CCU pitcher who hadn’t thrown this week, replaced Kitchen but pitched to only three batters before a one-hour suspension because of lightning in the area, and did not return after the delay.
Matt Eardensohn, pitching for the third time in four days, took the mound in the fifth after the delay with two runners on and retired three straight batters. He went on to retire nine straight and threw the final five innings, allowing just two hits and a run with five strikeouts while throwing 73 pitches.
Coastal, the visiting team, fell behind 1-0 in the first and 3-1 after the second inning with a Parker Chavers RBI single in the second inning accounting for its run. A Wright two-run homer tied the game in the third before two-out RBI singles by Blake Buckman and Masen Prososki reestablished ULM’s two-run lead in the bottom of the third.
The Chants again tied the game at 5 with two runs in the fourth with the help of a pair of ULM infield errors, but the Chants left the bases loaded on a double-play grounder by Wright.
ULM scored four in the bottom of the fourth to chase Kitchen. All of the runs scored after a two-out blooper landed between Chants 10 feet behind the pitcher’s mound, including two runs on a Ryan Humeniuk triple.
A Rivers two-run homer in the top of the sixth cut the deficit to 9-7.
Coastal took a 10-9 lead with three runs in the seventh with the help of a pair of pinch hitters and a clutch hit by Wright. Chavers singled, pinch hitters Nick Lucky and Jared Johnson reached on a single and hit by a pitch, respectively, and Cory Wood walked to force in a run. Wright lined a two-out, two-run single into right before Zach Biermann was intentionally walked and the Chants left the bases loaded for a second time in the game when Kyle Skeels popped out to third.
CCU put the game away with nine runs in the eighth, which included five walks – including one on a 10-pitch at-bat by Wood – a hit by pitch, two-run single by Rivers and two-run triple by Scott McKeon. They added seven in the ninth including back-to-back homers by Rivers and Wright and the slam by Pearcey.
CCU 14, UT Arlington 13
Coastal staved off elimination Friday night with a thrilling win over UT Arlington on Biermann’s home run in the 10th inning, his third homer of the game to tie a CCU team and Sun Belt Conference tournament record, and fifth in two games.
Skeels also hit a pair of home runs among Coastal’s 17 hits, and the Chants overcame two five-run deficits and a grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning that tied the game.
“I just don’t want to go home. I don’t want to say goodbye to these guys,” Biermann said. “So we’ve got to win games and you have to do whatever you can.”
Coastal trailed 7-2 early and 8-3 through five innings. Skeels’ second blast – a three-run homer in the seventh – gave the Chants their first lead of the game at 10-9.
“I’ve been a college coach for 34 years, including the [2016 College] World Series games and things like that, that right there has to rank right up there with some of the most incredible performances by individuals as well as a team to show resiliency,” Gilmore said. “Giving up that two-out grand slam, to just not completely collapse after having done things like that so many times during the year, I was very proud of them.”
Biermann’s four hits, four RBI and four runs scored helped atone for a pair of errors on a ground ball and popup that contributed to CCU’s deficits through 6 1/2 innings.
Coastal’s starting lineup Friday included eight players batting over .300, and the offense has allowed the Chants to overcome deficiencies and mistakes.
Coastal made four errors and walked six Mavericks, giving CCU a total of eight errors and 18 walks allowed in the first three games of the tournament, while also allowing 26 runs and 36 hits.
Sophomore Zach McCambley started but recorded just one out before being pulled after giving up three runs on a pair of singles, a double, walk and two-run home run by Andrew Miller. Eardensohn entered and induced a double-play grounder to end the threat, but he was unable to get through the second inning.
He recorded two outs in the second, but gave up five singles and was hurt by his own error on an errant pickoff throw and error by Biermann, leading to two unearned runs. Freshman Garrett McDaniels of Nichols struck out Dylan Paul to end the inning.
McDaniels allowed the Chants to come back by throwing a career-high five innings and allowing two runs – one earned – on three hits and four walks with a career-high six strikeouts. McDaniels didn’t pitch between March 30 and May 14 because of a shoulder issue.
“I thought pitching-wise the turning point of the game was McDaniels stepping up and giving us five innings,” Gilmore said. “That was huge. He was a difference in the game for us on the pitcher’s mound.”
CCU trailed 9-5 entering the seventh and took an 11-9 lead with six runs. Wood singled, Kieton Rivers walked, Wright doubled home two runs, Biermann singled and Skeels crushed a three-run homer to left-center field. The Chants added a run on a squeeze bunt by Hyde after singles by Scott McKeon and Mike Koenig.
Coastal added a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth on consecutive doubles by Rivers and Wright and Biermann’s second home run. He would need a third to overcome a grand slam by Will Olson in the ninth.