Chants seek series win in final game at Watson Stadium

Coastal Carolina committed four errors, including two as part of a three-run fifth for Winthrop, to drop a 6-5 decision to the Eagles Saturday evening at Watson Stadium/Vrooman Field.

The Chanticleers fall to 34-16 and 15-5 in the Big South, while Winthrop improves to 15-33, 8-12.

Winthrop also received an outstanding performance from relief pitcher Preston Johnson, who entered the game with a 1-7 record and a 7.21 ERA in 18 games. The freshman earned the win to improve to 2-7, pitching 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit with no walks and six strikeouts. Offensively, Winthrop was led by Chas Crane and Justin Hopper, each with two hits and two RBI.

Coastal Carolina and Winthrop will play the rubber game of the series Sunday at 2 pm. Prior to the game, which will be the final Chanticleer contest played in the present Watson Stadium, the Department of Athletics will have several ceremonies such as recognizing current CCU players’ mothers as part of Mother’s Day, bring back former baseball head coaches for a “Final First Pitch” and honoring seniors Daniel Bowman, Tucker Frawley and Rich Witten.

Winthrop staked a 1-0 lead in the first. Leighton Daniels came through with a one-out single to left and, after a walk and strikeout, Crane delivered a single to center to drive home Daniels.  The Chants answered back in the home half to tie the game at 1-1. Ted Blackman drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Witten plated Blackman with an RBI single through the left side of the infield.

The Eagles regained the advantage in the third. Daniels had a leadoff double and Crane drew a two-out walk. Hopper hit a bloop single, just beyond a diving Jacob May in shallow left-center field, allowing Daniels to score.

Once again, Coastal answered back in the home half. Tripp Martin ripped a double down the left field line and, after a sacrifice bunt, scored on Ted Blackman’s infield single.

The Chants took their first lead in the bottom of the fourth, scoring twice for a 4-2 advantage. Bowman reached on an error, Witten singled and Alex Buccilli walked to load the bases with no outs. Frawley brought home Bowman with a sacrifice fly to center field. Witten and Buccilli would steak third and second, respectively, to set up Sloan Gilliam’s RBI single through the right side.

It was Winthrop’s chance to respond after losing the lead and respond it did with three runs in the top of the fifth thanks to a pair of CCU errors. TJ Olesczuk started the frame by reaching on an error. Matt Lobacz followed with a single. Crane laid down a bunt and reached to load the bases as Coastal attempted to make the play at third. Hopper hit a slow roller to shortstop, driving in Olesczuk. On the play a throwing error allowed Lobacz to score from second. Jason Driver followed with an RBI ground out to make the score 5-4.

Coastal came back to knot the game at 5-5 in the home half. Blackman, who was 2-for-5 and accounted for three of Coastal’s five runs, had a leadoff single and moved to third on May’s double. After an out, Witten was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Buccilli forced home Blackman with an RBI walk, tying the game at 5-5. Preston Johnson came out of the Winthrop bullpen and induced an inning-ending double play.

The Eagles regained the lead in the sixth, scoring once. Olesczuk doubled with one out and moved to third on a single to center by Lobacz. Crane singled to left to bring home Olesczuk. On the play, Lobacz was thrown out at third by Blackman. Coastal would escape further damage thanks to a diving catch by Bowman for the final out.

Aaron Burke (8-3) suffered the loss, pitching the four innings. He allowed three hits and the one run in the sixth and, overall, would walk two and strikeout two. CCU starter Austin Wallace lasted 4.1 innings. He allowed seven hits and five runs (three earned) with two walks and three strikeouts.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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