Chants advance to winners’ bracket, face Flames Friday

Coastal Carolina senior Ted Blackman made a veteran move on the base paths to propel the 30th-ranked and second-seed Chanticleers to a 3-2 win over sixth-seed Gardner-Webb (29-26-1) Wednesday evening in the second round of the Big South Tournament at Liberty Baseball Stadium.

Coastal (37-19) will have a day off Thursday and will play Friday at approximately 1 pm against the host and fifth-seeded Flames.

The Chants took the lead, 3-2, in the fifth. Blackman hit a leadoff double and moved to third on a Jacob May fly out to center field. Jake Kane hit a ground ball back to GWU pitcher Andrew Barnett (5-3), who looked Blackman’s way at third to make sure he was not running home and threw to first to retire Kane. However, on the throw, Blackman broke home and beat the throw from Bulldog first baseman Brad Collins at the plate.

With inclement weather threatening in the ninth, Gardner-Webb made things interesting. Henry Rundio had a leadoff single and took third on Scott Johnson’s single. GWU sent Alex Newman to pinch run. Ryan Connolly, as he has several times before, executed the “fake to third, throw to first” move to pick off Newman for the first out. Connolly then struck out Danny Yelverton. Coastal turned to Austin Kerr out of the bullpen to face the left-handed hitting Ryan Hodge, but Hodge would draw a walk to put runners on the corners. The Chants then brought right-hander Patrick Corbett, who struck out leadoff batter JJ Nazzaro to end the game and earn his fourth save of the season.

Gardner-Webb took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second. After a strikeout, John Harris and Rundio drew back-to-back walks and Scott Johnson singled to load the bases. Yelverton grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Coastal retiring Harris at the plate on the ground ball. Hodge forced in the first run when he drew a bases loaded walk and Nazzaro followed with an RBI single to right field.

Coastal tied the game at 2-2 in the third. With one out, Blackman was hit by a pitch, May reached on a bunt single and Kane singled to load the bases. Alex Buccilli roped a two-run double off the left-center field wall to score Blackman and May. Gardner-Webb avoided further trouble when Colin Hering hit a ground ball to first and Brad Collins fired a strike to home to get Kane on a bang-bang play at the plate.

Ben Smith (5-3) earned the win, allowing five hits and two runs over six innings. He walked three and struck out nine. Connolly worked 2.2 scoreless innings and allowed three hits with no walks and the one strikeout.

Buccilli and Kane accounted for four of CCU’s seven hits, each getting two.

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