CCU IS OMAHA-BOUND!: Chants rally to sweep LSU

ccubase-celebrateCoastal Carolina head baseball coach Gary Gilmore has talked about going to Omaha since taking over the Chanticleer baseball program in 1996 and, with a dramatic 4-3 victory at #8 national seed Louisiana State Sunday, he will now fulfill his dream of taking the his alma mater to the College World Series. (Check www.GoCCUSports.com Monday afternoon for ticket information.)

This will be Coastal’s first trip to the College World Series and the Chanticleers will face the winner of NCAA Gainesville Super Regional (Florida or Florida State) on Saturday (June 18) at a time to be announced. CCU had played in two previous NCAA Super Regionals, but lost at #2 national seed North Carolina in 2008 and, as the #4 national seed, was upset by South Carolina in 2010. CCU was also an out away from advancing before Georgia pulled out an 8-7 come-from-behind win in 2001.

Coastal (49-16) led the whole game and battled a raucous, sold-out Alex Box Stadium crowd before the Tigers (45-21) tied the game in the top of the ninth. LSU looked to possibly score multiple runs in the ninth, thanks to a pair of CCU errors as it loaded the bases with one out after tying the game 3-3. However, Bobby Holmes (5-2) limited the damage by recording a strikeout and a fly out.

In the bottom of the ninth Anthony Marks worked the count full and drew a leadoff walk. He then stole second and Michael Paez chopped an 0-1 pitch over the third baseman’s head down the left field line. Marks, who had used his speed all game on the base paths, beat the throw home to score the game-winning run and set off the Chanticleer celebration.

Coastal, serving as the home team, grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. The Chants’ first run was manufactured by the hustle and speed of Marks. First, the legged out an infield single to second base. Second, on a deep fly ball to center by Paez, Marks tagged and took second. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch and later scored on a wild pitch. In between wild pitches, Connor Owings (2-for-4) walked and advanced to second on the second wild pitch. Two batters later, G.K. Young (2-for-3) delivered an RBI single to right field to bring home Owings.

LSU threatened to have a big inning in the top of the third, but only managed one run, to make the score 2-1. Chris Reid drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a balk. Cole Freeman came through with a one-out, RBI double down the left field line. Antoine Duplantis followed with a double, but Freeman was only able to advance to third as he had to wait to see if the catch at the wall would be made. Alex Cunningham limited the damage but getting a pair of pop outs.

The Chanticleers had several chances from the second to the fifth inning, stranded four runners over the span. However, Coastal regained a two-run lead, 3-1, in the bottom of the sixth. Young hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a Billy Cooke sacrifice bunt. Kevin Woodall Jr. welcomed new Tiger pitcher Parker Bugg with an RBI single to center that scored Young.

The Tigers also squandered several chances over the middle innings and was finally able to get on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh to make it a one-run game, 3-2. Chris Reid and Michael Papierski had back-to-back singles. Then, with two outs, Duplantis lined an RBI double down the third base line. With runners on second and third, CCU pitching coach Drew Thomas stuck with Cunningham, who promptly induced an inning-ending ground out.

LSU threatened in the top of the eighth. Holmes came out the bullpen with runners on first and second. He struck out Reid before walking the bases loaded with two outs. Holmes kept it a one-run game as he got a ground out for the third out. For the season, Holmes has inherited 18 runners this season (four in the Super Regional) and only one has scored (none in the Super Regional).

In the bottom of the eighth, Coastal loaded the bases with one out, but could not capitalize.

The Tigers rode that momentum into the ninth as Freeman started the frame by reaching on an error. After a walk to Duplantis, Jake Fraley laid down a sacrifice bunt, but an error on the play allowed Freeman to score the game-tying run and put runners on second and third. Holmes got a ground out before walking the bases loaded. Holmes responded by striking out pinch hitter Brody Wofford and getting Beau Jordan to fly out to Marks.

Cunningham, who left with the lead, did not figure in the decision, but Coastal improved to 19-6 in games he has started over the last two seasons. He pitched 7.1 innings, scattered 10 hits (LSU stranded 12 runners total) while allowing two runs and a walk with a strikeout.

Holmes worked the final 1.2 innings to get the win. He did not allow a hit, but walked three that led to an unearned run. He tallied a pair of strikeouts.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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