With one of its biggest games awaiting this week, Coastal Carolina reiterated again Sunday that it is playing its best baseball of the season and feeding off the momentum created during this stretch.
The Chanticleers had their way offensively yet again in the finale of a three-game set with Gardner-Webb, rolling to a 10-6 win before a crowd of 1,693 at Springs Brooks Stadium.
That makes seven wins in a row and 13 in the last 15 games for the Chants (20-9, 5-1 Big South) as they completed the series sweep of the Runnin’ Bulldogs (21-10, 2-4), and they will next travel to play No. 7-ranked South Carolina in Columbia on Tuesday night.
“[Gardner-Webb] can swing the bat. They proved that all weekend. They had some great, great numbers as a pitching staff coming into the series so we knew it was going to be a battle to win the series,” senior right fielder Connor Owings said. “We weren’t even looking for a sweep; we were just trying to win a game at a time and we put ourselves in a position to come out here and get a sweep. We just battled all game.”
The real battle was the Runnin’ Bulldogs trying to slow down Coastal Carolina’s surging offense. The Chants scored in double figures in all three games and plated runs in 17 out of 24 innings through the series.
Owings was 2-for-4 with his fourth home run of the season, three RBIs and two runs scored Sunday and Billy Cooke was 2-for-3 with three RBIs as well.
“Offensively I thought we did a fantastic job,” Chants coach Gary Gilmore said. “We faced two outstanding guys who the scouts came in here to see on Friday and Saturday and their freshman today, their best bullpen guy in [Wil] Sellers there toward the end of the game. I thought our offense did a fantastic job. We did a lot of different things – we hit some home runs, we scrapped and got base hits, we ran the bases well, we had an excellent short game weekend. And defensively the majority of the time we were pretty good and turned some double plays when we had to.
“Starting pitching-wise, we somehow have got to get deeper in the game. That’s been the albatross around our neck all year so that part I’m not very pleased with, but besides that [Andrew] Beckwith’s been a life-saver to us and [Mike] Morrison and [Austin] Kitchen as well.”
The Chants would indeed need a boost from their bullpen again Sunday, but they were in control from start to finish nonetheless.
Tyler Chadwick hit a two-out double in the bottom of the second and scored on an RBI single from Cooke to make it 1-0, and the Chants tacked on three more runs in the third with a little help.
Anthony Marks led off the frame with an opposite-field single, Michael Paez was hit by a pitch and G.K. Young and Zach Remillard drew back-to-back walks to make it 2-0. Owings then grounded into a double play as the third run scored, and after Chadwick walked Cooke blooped a two-run single to center to make it 5-0.
Senior right-hander Tyler Poole got through four innings unscathed before running into trouble in the fifth while walking Paul Trick to start the inning, giving up a single to Eric Jones, walking Justin Kunz and then plunking Mason Fox to plate the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ first run.
Coastal Carolina went to the bullpen at that point, calling on trusted junior righty Andrew Beckwith. He started with a three-pitch strikeout of Taylor Fisher, gave up a single to Tyler Best to allow one run home and then induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play from Danny Sullivan. Chadwick made an impressive scoop at first base on the turn from second baseman Seth Lancaster as the Chants escaped the jam with a 5-2 lead.
That’s as close as it would get as Owings crushed a two-run shot clear over the boardwalk in right field in the bottom of the fifth to make it 7-2.
“I didn’t really watch it, I didn’t see it. Apparently it cleared the boardwalk so I hope I didn’t hit anything,” he said of the potential vehicle damage caused by the blast.
Owings is on an eight-game hit streak with four two-hit games in that stretch to raise his average from .304 to .344.
“We’ve just kind of been talking as a team, redefining our approach and not trying to be too fine with it,” he said. “Just trying to go pitch by pitch, compete every single pitch and try to win every pitch when we’re in that box.”
Beckwith (3-1) was credited with the win, allowing only two hits in three scoreless innings while Poole got the no-decision after giving up two runs (one earned) on two hits and four walks in four innings.
Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa stopped by to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Sunday and visited briefly in the dugout with the Chants before the game.
“He was just very personable, just like I expected him to be,” Gilmore said.
Retired major leaguer Reggie Sanders, a Myrtle Beach resident, was also on hand.