The final day of the Coastal Carolina baseball team’s spotlight series at Georgia Tech couldn’t have started any better for the Chanticleers.
Or ended any tougher.
Picking up where the second game of the series was stopped the previous evening due to weather, the Chants opened Sunday with a Seth Lancaster bases-loaded walk and a Kevin Woodall Jr. pinch-hit grand slam to take a lead on the Yellow Jackets that they would hold for most of the game.
But Georgia Tech rallied back with four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning against the typically stingy duo of Andrew Beckwith and Mike Morrison to pull off a 9-8 come-from-behind win over the No. 19-ranked Chants at Russ Chandler Stadium.
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After another weather delay, the teams decided to try and get the third game completed. The Chants fell behind early and wouldn’t get a full chance to see if they could recover as yet another series of lightning delays pushed them up against their mandated departure time and forced the series finale to be called in the seventh inning with the Yellow Jackets ahead 4-2.
With that, Georgia Tech (30-14) claimed the series sweep while the Chants (31-14) –winners of 18 of their previous 20 entering the weekend – matched their longest losing skid of the season.
“[I’m] disappointed for all involved. It is what it is,” Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. “It would have been nice to get those last six outs and see if we could turn the table on them the way they did on us.”
Not getting to finish the finale was surely frustrating, but the ending of the earlier game was even more difficult for a Chants team that came into the weekend looking to continue to build its national resume.
It’s still the same. It doesn’t matter if we lose three in a row or win three games this weekend. It’s got to be the same every day. Results can change who you are or change your team.
CCU third baseman Zach Remillard
Coastal Carolina was trailing 5-2 with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fourth inning when play resumed Sunday morning.
Lancaster started it off by drawing a full-count walk from Yellow Jackets left-handed reliever Ben Parr.
Gilmore then called on Woodall Jr. to pinch-hit for Matt Beaird and he clobbered a grand slam off the scoreboard in left-centerfield to put the Chants ahead 7-5.
It was Woodall’s third homer of the season and the Chants’ second pinch-hit grand slam this season after Kieton Rivers did it back on March 4 against Cincinnati.
“We talked with Gilley before and he said if the lefty comes out, [in] Beaird’s spot we’re most likely going to pinch-hit you and get you in there,” Woodall said. “I just tried to get in there and get a pitch I could hit. It definitely felt great. After coming back from yesterday, it was a good momentum swing to start off the day. It just didn’t work out for us in the end.”
Zach Remillard tacked on a solo homer in the seventh to make it 8-5 and give the Chants four homers in a game (G.K. Young and Tyler Chadwick homered Saturday before the game was stalled) for the fourth time this season.
And it seemed like Coastal Carolina had taken full control, especially with Beckwith – the team’s stalwart junior righty– stifling the Georgia Tech bats in his typical fashion.
Beckwith put up scoreless frames in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth to stretch his streak of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to 38.
Then it all unraveled for the Chants in the most unlikely way.
Beckwith gave up a leadoff double to Brandt Stallings to open the ninth and an RBI single to Ryan Peurifoy to end his impressive streak. With that, the Chants called on Morrison, their shutdown senior closer.
Morrison had his own streak of 33 straight innings without an earned run and came into the day with a mind-boggling 0.48 earned-run average, but that all changed as George Tech’s star shortstop Connor Justus ripped a two-run homer to left to tie the game at 8-8.
Morrison then yielded a single up the middle to Carter Hall to bring up Matt Gonzalez, who showed bunt before pulling the bat back during the second pitch and smacking a walk-off double off the wall in left.
Morrison dropped to 5-1 and saw his ERA rise to a still plenty impressive 0.96.
“It was definitely a heartbreaker anytime you lose a game like that, especially with our best guys out there. But we had to wipe it off quick,” Woodall said.
And they tried to do just that.
Remillard put the Chants ahead 1-0 in the first inning of the finale with an RBI single, but Georgia Tech plated two runs each in the first and second innings against right-hander Tyler Poole, who was making his first appearance since April 17 due to back issues.
Remillard later cranked his second homer of the day and his 11th of the season to tie for the team lead and make it a 4-2 game in the fifth.
And lefty reliever Austin Kitchen held the Yellow Jackets scoreless over 4 1/3 innings of work to keep it close, but the Chants simply ran out of time, having set a mandatory departure time of 5:30 p.m. so the players could be back at a reasonable hour with exams ahead this week.
“We’ve got to get better, and I think that’s the story of every loss and every struggle,” Remillard said. “Every pitch you lose you’ve got to get better and just try to refocus and try to play with a little more intensity. You know, it happens.
“It is what it is. You can’t control the elements and there’s really nothing you can do.”
The Chants, ranked between No. 13 and No. 22 in the national polls this past week, had come to Atlanta hoping to further their national profile against a Georgia Tech team ranked No. 25 in a couple polls and No. 22 in the RPI.
Instead, they’ll look to regroup and bounce back next weekend with a three-game series at rival Liberty.
“It’s just a higher level of competition. We have to get better,” Gilmore said. “If we played [more of these games] we would get better, but our record wouldn’t be what it is if we played this every weekend. Regardless of how good our schedule’s been, playing quality ACC and SEC people on the weekend, it forces you to get better.
“Right now we’ve just got to play to try to win our conference and know that if we win the conference we get in the playoffs. Where we go if we get in the tournament is inconsequential if we get better.”
Remillard, meanwhile, said the results of the weekend don’t change anything for the players moving forward.
“It’s still the same. It doesn’t matter if we lose three in a row or win three games this weekend. It’s got to be the same every day,” he said. “Results can change who you are or change your team.”