Chants strike back in series with College of Charleston

ccubase-swingbatterCoastal Carolina snapped a five-game losing skid to the College of Charleston – spanning three seasons – with a 5-3 victory Wednesday afternoon at Springs Brooks Stadium.

The 19th-ranked Chanticleers (24-10) have won four straight and 11 of their last 12 dating back to a 4-2 loss to the Cougars (21-11-1) on March 27.  CCU’s lone loss of the span was a 4-2 decision at #6 South Carolina on April 5. Coastal had dropped two games to the College this season, both on the road, and had lost seven of the last nine in the series. The Chants will have the opportunity to even the season series with Charleston when the teams meet for a fourth time on April 20 in Conway.

In the win Wednesday, Coastal was led by Billy Cooke and Matt Beaird, while Michael Paez and G.K. Young each had big hits. Also, the Chants received a good start from pitcher Zack Hopeck while Mike Morrison (4-0) earned the win in relief.

Cooke was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored while Beaird was 1-for-1 with two RBI and a run scored. Young hit a solo home run in the sixth to give CCU a 3-2 lead while Paez hit an RBI double in the seventh, which proved to be the game winner.

Hopeck, making his fifth straight midweek start, was in line for the win as he left the game with CCU leading 2-1. He pitched five complete innings, scattering five hits and walk with five strikeouts.

After Charleston tied the game in the sixth and threatened for more, Morrison got CCU out of a bases-loaded jam and would pitch the final 3.1 innings with five strikeouts to get the win. He allowed two hits in the ninth and, what should have been the final out of the game resulted in an error that led to an unearned run – the first tally he surrendered over a 28.1-inning streak that spanned 14 appearances. Morrison then struck out the final batter.

Morrison, now 4-0 with four saves and a 0.54 ERA in 16 games, has not allowed an earned run (one total) in his last 28.2 innings (14 appearances and 106 batters) with 42 strikeouts.

The College got on the scoreboard first with a run in the top of the second. Bradley Jones hit a leadoff double, moved to third on a fly out and scored on an RBI single by Ryan Brown.

Coastal tied the game, 1-1, in the third. Cooke hit a leadoff double and moved to third on a Seth Lancaster sacrifice bunt and scored when Matt Beaird then executed a safety squeeze bunt.

Cooke, who has reached base safely in 26 straight, started a two-out rally with a single in the fifth as CCU took a 2-1 lead. Lancaster walked after the Cooke single and Beaird followed with a line drive RBI single to right field.

The Cougars responded with a run in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 2-2. Morgan Phillips hit a leadoff double and scored on an RBI single by Jones. Charleston would load the bases with two outs before Coastal turned to Morrison, who recorded a strikeout to end the threat.

Young snatched the momentum back for CCU in the bottom of the sixth inning, hitting a one-out, solo home run to right field. The junior has seven home runs this season.

Coastal added a run in the seventh to take a 4-2 lead. With one out, Beaird was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Anthony Marks. Paez came through with a two-out, two-strike RBI double to left center field.

The Chants scored in their fourth straight inning to build a 5-2 advantage in the eighth inning. Connor Owings, who was 2-for-4 and extended his hit streak to 13 games, delivered a one-out single and was lifted for pinch runner Dalton Ewing. A throwing error on a pickoff attempt moved Ewing to third. With two outs, Cooke reached on an infield single which allowed Ewing to score.

The Cougars made things interesting in the ninth. After two strikeouts, Luke Manzo (3-for-4) and Dupree Hart had back-to-back infield singles. Tommy Richter then hit a ball to left field, which was misplayed and allowed Manzo to score. With runners on first and third, Morrison recorded a strikeout to preserve the 5-3 win.

Coastal Carolina will return to action this weekend, hosting Presbyterian for a three game series. First pitch Friday is set for 6 p.m.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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