Chants win Big South title; NCAA tourney seed set

ccubase-bschampsMichael Paez hit a home run in the third inning and Anthony Marks threw out a Liberty runner at the plate in the fifth to lead top seed at 17th-ranked Coastal Carolina to a 1-0 victory over Liberty and win its 14th Big South Tournament Championship Saturday afternoon at Lexington County Baseball Stadium.

The game came down to a highlight-reel double play in the ninth. With two runners on (single and a walk) and one out, Big South Tournament MVP and CCU closer Mike Morrison got Dalton Britt to hit a ground ball to first base. CCU’s Tyler Chadwick fielded the ball, threw to shortstop Paez for one out and the Brooks Wallace Award candidate made the relay to Morrison at first. Morrison made a nice scoop to complete the double play and secure the championship.

In addition to Morrison being named MVP, he was joined on the All-Tournament team by fellow Chanticleers Zach Remillard, Paez and Seth Lancaster.

The Chanticleers improve to 44-15 and, with its 2016 regular season title, wins their 30th conference baseball title (14 regular season and 14 tournament). The next closest in the league is Winthrop and Liberty, each with seven total conference titles. This was also the 27th Big South tournament and Coastal has played in 19 championship games, while either CCU or Liberty have played in 18 of the last 19 titles tilts. CCU and Liberty have faced each other eight times in the championship game with CCU wining seven.

With such little offense, in fact this was the lowest scoring championship game in league history; it should go without saying that pitching ruled the day.

CCU freshman Jason Bilous (3-1) won his third straight start as he pitched a career-high 5.1 innings and struck out five while allowing no runs, two hits and no walks.

Morrison, a local product from nearby Gilbert, worked the final 3.2 innings. Not only did he pick up his eighth save of the season Saturday, he also had a win in the opener and a save in the second round game. In the championships, Morrison allowed two hits and one walk with four strikeouts.

Liberty pitcher Jack DeGroat (4-4), who threw 122 pitches over seven innings in a win over High Point in the first round Tuesday, pitched a complete game Saturday and allowed just three hits and two walks with six strikeouts.

Coastal looked as if it was going to get on the scoreboard early in the third inning after sophomore catcher Matt Beaird just missed his first career home run with a fly ball to the center field fence. Then, two batters later, Paez did leave the yard in a big way to give Coastal a 1-0 lead. The blast was his 14th of the season to rank second in the nation among shortstops in home runs.

Bilous, who retired the first 12 batters he faced with five strikeouts, gave up a leadoff single to Britt in the fifth on the first pitch of the frame. After a sacrifice bunt moved Britt up 90 feet, Payton Scarbrough singled to left and Britt tried to score from second. However, Coastal senior left fielder Anthony Marks threw a strike to the plate to easily get the second out of the inning. Bilous then induced an inning-ending ground ball to escape and keep the score 1-0.

Coastal Carolina will learn is 2016 NCAA postseason fate either Sunday night and/or Monday afternoon. The 16 national seeds will be announced Sunday night and CCU is in the conversation to be one of those host teams. The complete NCAA Regional field will be announced Monday at noon on ESPNU. The Chanticleers will host a public viewing party at Handley’s Pub in Carolina Forest.

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