Cardiac Chants strike again as bullpen holds off Radford

For the second-straight day, No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina rallied in the middle innings for a comeback victory, this time defeating No. 5 Radford, 5-3, in Game 7 of the 2012 Big South Baseball Championship at Williard Stadium on the campus of High Point University.

The Chanticleers improve to 39-17 and advance to Game 12 on Friday against a to-be-determined opponent.  Radford falls to 29-27-1 and will play No. 4 Gardner-Webb in an elimination game Thursday at 3:00pm.

Coastal Carolina struck first with a run in the bottom of the first.  With one out, Jacob May singled to left and moved to third on Daniel Bowman’s single to right.  The hit was the 300th of Bowman’s career, making him the fourth player in Big South history with 300 and the first with 300 career hits, 200 career runs and 200 career RBI.  An error by Radford pitcher Mark Patterson allowed May to score for the early lead.  The Chanticleers went ahead 2-0 in the second inning as Tripp Martin blasted a solo home run over the wall in left-center.

But the Highlanders would counter with a three-run inning in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead.  Brett Mollenhauer opened with a walk, followed by singles from Jeff Kemp and Matt Mack to load the bases.  A passed ball by catcher Tucker Frawley allowed Mollenhauer to score the first run, and Josh Gardiner singled to right-center to plate Kemp and Mack with the go-ahead runs.

The Chanticleers scored twice in the fifth inning to retake the lead at 4-3.  Rich Witten tied the game with a run-scoring single that brought home May, who had tripled to start the inning.  Before Witten’s at-bat, Bowman was hit-by-pitch and he eventually scored on Frawley’s fielder’s choice.

Radford threatened to tie the game in the seventh inning, as the Highlanders loaded the bases with two outs.  But Coastal reliever Ryan Connolly struck out Mack to escape unscathed.  Coastal Carolina added an insurance run in the bottom half to stretch its lead to 5-3.

Connolly (4-2) was the difference maker, as he tossed six scoreless innings out of the bullpen to earn the victory.  He allowed just four hits, walked none and fanned four in his 105th career appearance, which is tied for 4th all-time in Big South history.  CCU starter Javier Reynoso lasted three innings and allowed all three Highlander runs.  Martin, May and Bowman finished with two hits each for the Chanticleers.

“The bullpen saved us again.  Heck, they’ve saved our season,” said Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore.  “Without (injured starter) Josh Conway, we have struggled, but those (submarine) guys have been unbelievable.  Javier gave us three good innings, and we can just hope to get as many innings out of each starter.  Bottom line, if we find a way to win Friday, I don’t think we will be left out of (Regionals).”

Mollenhauer and Kemp each had two hits for Radford.  Peterson (4-4) suffered the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) and five hits in 4.1 innings.  He walked two and struck out three.

The victory was Coastal Carolina’s 13th-straight Tournament win, extending its Big South Conference record.

Meanwhile, the Big South announced a schedule adjustment, as Game 8 between No. 2 Campbell-No. 3 Liberty has been moved to Thursday morning at 11:00am.  The loser of that game will play No. 7 High Point in an elimination game Thursday evening, with the winner advancing to Game 11 on Friday morning.

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