Buccilli, Herb lead Chants to victory over rival Winthrop

Playing the last of its three games in its current facility, 29th-ranked Coastal Carolina took the opening game of the Winthrop series, 4-1, Friday night at Watson Stadium/Vrooman Field.

The Chanticleers (34-15, 15-4) were led by Alex Buccilli and Rich Witten while the tandem of Tyler Herb and Ben Smith held the Eagles (14-33, 7-12 BCS) to just two hits.

Buccilli went 4-for-4 at the plate and accounted for three of Coastal’s first four runs, driving in two and scoring once. Witten, who was 2-for-3, took care of the remaining tally with a solo home run in the seventh.

Herb improved to 8-2 on the season as he did not allow a hit through four complete. The sophomore, who walked two and struck out four, would allow an infield single to start the fifth and that runner would come around to score for Winthrop’s only run. From that point, freshman Ben Smith closed the game, pitching the final four innings to earn his second save. He tied a career high with six strikeouts, fanning the side in the eighth and getting the first two batters in the ninth. Smith did not allow a hit or a walk, hitting one batter. With the save, Coastal now has 23 as a team, setting a Big South single-season record, previously held by the 2007 VMI Keydets.

Both teams’ pitchers got off to quick starts as Herb struck out two in the top of the first and Winthrop’s Matt Pierpont struck out the first two Chanticleers in the home half. However, Pierpont (3-8) would walk Daniel Bowman and Rich Witten before Alex Buccilli singled to right field to drive in Bowman for a 1-0 CCU lead.

With that run scored, Bowman became just the second player in Big South history to record 200 runs scored and 200 RBI, joining former Winthrop Eagle Jacob Dempsey. (Bowman now has 200 runs and 202 RBI. Dempsey, who played from 2003-06, had 202 career runs scored and 209 career RBI.)

The Chants looked to add to their lead in the second with identical hits – up the middle ground balls that was just beyond the diving shortstop – by Sloan Gilliam and Brian Pruett. Gilliam had a leadoff single and moved to second on Justin Creel’s sacrifice but. Pruett followed with his single, but a strong throw by Eagle centerfielder TJ Olesczuk erased Gilliam at the plate.

Coastal would pad its lead in the third, coming through with some timely two-out hits. Witten started the rally with a single through the left side of the infield. A wild pitch moved Witten to second and Buccilli delivered an RBI single. Buccilli stole second to set up Tucker Frawley’s RBI single to left field.

Winthrop (14-33, 7-12 BSC) got its first hit in the fifth, which also produced its first run. Chad Smith started the fifth by reaching on an error. After a sacrifice bunt and a ground out, Drew Hardee lined a single to center field to score Smith.

Coastal scored its fourth two-out run of the game with Witten launched a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall, marking his third round tripper of the season.

Pierpont suffered the loss, allowing four hits, four runs and four walks over 6.2 innings with five strikeouts.

Coastal Carolina and Winthrop will play game two of the series on Saturday with first pitch set for 6 pm.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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