Chants dig deep, rally past Highlanders in first round

ccubase-throwTop-seeded and 17th-ranked Coastal Carolina took a two-run lead in the seventh inning, allowed three runs in the top of the eighth to tie the game and scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to claim a 7-5 win over eighth-seed Radford on Tuesday evening in the first round of the 2016 Big South Championship, presented at Hardee’s, at Lexington County Stadium.

The Chanticleers (41-15) will face the winner of #4 seed Gardner-Webb and #5 seed Presbyterian in the late game Wednesday night.

Mike Morrison, who hails from nearby Gilbert, blew a save in the seventh, but improved to 7-1 overall as the first team All-Big South pitcher struck out four over two innings. Connor Owings, Morrison’s high school teammate and 2016 Big South Player of the Year, provided the game-winner in the bottom of the eighth.

Radford (17-38) broke the scoreless deadlock in the top of the fifth. Chandler Davis had a leadoff single and Adam Whitacre followed with a bunt single. After a sacrifice bunt, Alex Cunningham got a pop pout before Colby Higgerson lined a two-out, two-run single to left field. Cunningham limited the damage with an inning-ending strikeout.

Coastal not only got on the board but took the lead , 3-2,in the bottom of the sixth. Michael Paez hit a leadoff double, his second two-bagger of the day. Two batters later, Zach Remillard delivered an RBI single to left field. G.K. Young followed with an infield single, moving Remillard to second. Billy Cooke then looped a single into left field to score Remillard, who was running on the play, and tie the contest at 2-2. Tyler Chadwick walked to load the bases and Young broke the tie as he scored on a wild pitch for a 3-2 lead.

In the seventh, the Chants pushed their advantage to 5-2. Anthony Marks had an infield single and Paez walked. Owings moved the runners to third and second, respectively. Remillard hit a foul out midway down the right field line, but Marks was able to tag and just the throw home for a 4-2 lead. Young then singled to deep second base to drive in Paez.

The Highlanders tied the game, 5-5, with three runs in the top of the eighth. Higgerson and Danny Hrbek had consecutive singles prior to a Shane Johnsonbaugh RBI double. With runners at second and third and no outs, Coastal turned to Mike Morrison out of the bullpen and he quickly recorded two strikeouts. Channdler Davis drew a walk to load the bases. Hrbek scored on a wild pitch and pinch hitter Jordan Taylor tied the game with an RBI single to shortstop.

Coastal answered with two runs in the home half of the eighth to lead 7-5. Tyler Chadwick started the frame with a walk and, after a sacrifice bunt, Beaird and Marks walked to load the bases. Two batters later, Owings hit a soft liner behind second base and Radford could not make the play at first for an RBI single. On the play, Beaird was able to score from second on a throwing error.

Morrison had a pair of strikeouts before allowing a walk in the top of the ninth. He then induced a game-ending fly out to get the win.

Cunningham was in line for the win, leaving after six complete and allowing six hits and two runs with no walks and five strikeouts.

Photo courtesy of Big South Conference

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