The Coastal Carolina baseball team took the field Friday night hoping to continue its surging momentum and make yet another statement this weekend in a pivotal three-game series at Georgia Tech.
Which means the Chanticleers now have even more work to do the next two days.
The No. 19-ranked Chants were outplayed in most every aspect of the series opener as the Yellow Jackets cruised to a 9-1 win before a crowd of 1,169 at Russ Chandler Stadium.
“For me right now, after the way we played today, the best thing that can happen is God-willing the sun comes up tomorrow because, for me, that was a pitiful effort across the board,” Chants coach Gary Gilmore said. “We didn’t pitch well at all, we didn’t defend – we made a great play in centerfield, but I think at least five walks scored, the big error in right field killed us.
“We didn’t make plays when we had to and we didn’t have enough offense to overcome it. So you lose when that happens.”
Junior right-hander Alex Cunningham didn’t have his best stuff Friday night, issuing five walks with no strikeouts while giving up six hits and seven runs (five earned) to drop to 6-3.
He also didn’t have all that much help.
That’s a regional team and we’re obviously a regional team – I mean, we feel like we are and we play like we are – so we’ve got to come back and compete with them and show them we can play with them.
CCU designated hitter G.K. Young
The Chants (31-12) had a chance to escape the third inning with only a 1-0 deficit after Cunningham walked the bases loaded, but Kel Johnson’s two-out fly ball to deep right field went off Connor Owings’ glove as two more runs scored.
The Yellow Jackets (28-14) then started the bottom of the fourth with a Trevor Craport double and singles from Brandt Stallings and Ryan Peurifoy to make it a 4-0 game.
Coastal Carolina got one run back in the top of the fifth on a two-out RBI single from G.K. Young, but the bottom of that inning proved disastrous.
Matt Gonzalez led off with an infield single on a playable grounder to third, Tristin English singled up the middle two batters later and Craport walked to load the bases with one out. That was all for Cunningham as righty Zack Hopeck took over on the mound and gave up a grand slam to Stallings, who made it an 8-1 lead with his shot to left-center.
“After the second inning [Cunningham] didn’t throw many breaking balls for strikes, his fastball command kind of came and went and they’re too good,” Gilmore said. “They play too good a caliber schedule day in and day out. I mean, they see guys like Cunningham three times a weekend, so we have to be way better than that.”
His counterpart Brandon Gold, the Georgia Tech righty, improved to 5-2 while allowing only one run on six hits and two walks over eight innings with five strikeouts.
A Matt Beaird double in the third inning was the Chants’ only extra-base hit.
Their best highlight, meanwhile, was a diving catch in deep center by Billy Cooke in the third.
Aside from Young’s RBI single, there wasn’t much else.
“We didn’t get the big hits when we needed them and we didn’t square a lot of balls up,” Young said. “They got more hits than us obviously.”
The Chants had won 18 of their previous 20 games and are ranked between No. 13 and No. 22 across all of the national polls.
Some of the respected college baseball websites like Baseball America and D1Baseball.com were projecting Coastal Carolina as an NCAA regional host earlier this week.
And that certainly wasn’t lost in one game game Friday night.
The Chants have been one of the hottest teams in the country and still have the rest of the series – if the weather cooperates – to remind everybody of that.
“That’s a regional team and we’re obviously a regional team – I mean, we feel like we are and we play like we are – so we’ve got to come back and compete with them and show them we can play with them,” Young said.
Gilmore, meanwhile, was focused squarely on the next game ... and on having a reason to move past this one.
“I ain’t worried about the one Sunday – I’m worried about the one tomorrow. I can’t really say what I really feel,” he said. “... You saw it tonight. I have a lot of questions.”
Who | No. 19 Coastal Carolina at Georgia Tech
Where | Russ Chandler Stadium, Atlanta
When | 4 p.m. Saturday
TV/Online | ESPN3.com
Radio | WSEA-FM 100.3