CCU wins another nail-biter to reach Big South title tilt

Tripp Martin drove in the game-winning run and co-Big South Pitcher of the Year Aaron Burke pitched 4.1 scoreless innings to lead top seed Coastal Carolina to a 4-3 win over host and seventh seed High Point Friday at the 2012 Big South Baseball Championship.

The Chanticleers (40-17) win their bracket and advance to Saturday’s “winner-take-all” championship game against third seeded Liberty at 4 pm on ESPN3.

Coastal Carolina, who won its sixth straight Big South regular-season title this season, will be playing in its sixth straight Big South Tournament final. Coastal has now won 14 straight Big South Tournament games and has won each of the last 16 meetings versus Liberty.

Bowman was 3-for-3 with two runs scored to become the CCU all-time hits leader, now with 304. Burke, who pitched 5.1 innings and got the win over Charleston Southern in the opening round, improved to 10-5 this season, scattering five hits with no walks and two strikeouts Friday versus High Point.

Burke escaped three jams to get the win. In the seventh, the Panthers put runners on second and third thanks to a single and double. Burke induced a pop up and a ground out to keep the score 4-3. In the eighth, Ryan Retz reached on a one-out error, but Burke got out of the inning with a double play. Then, in the ninth, Dane McDermott reached on a one-out error and took second on a single by Ryne Rush. However, Burke got Spencer Angelis, who was 3-for-3 prior to the ninth-inning at bat, to ground into a game-ending double play.

Coastal Carolina drew first blood in the bottom of the first. Jacob May walked and Bowman was hit by a pitch. Rich Witten, who was 2-for-4 with two RBI, doubled to left-center field, driving in both May and Bowman on the play. The double was Witten’s 49th career two-bagger and the two RBI give the senior 153 for his career to tie Robbie Jordan for eighth on the CCU all-time list.

In the third, Bowman came through with a one-out hit, giving him 517 career total bases to tie the Big South career record. Bowman moved to third on a single by Witten and scored on Alex Buccilli’s RBI single to left-center to give the Chants a 3-0 lead.

High Point trimmed its deficit to one, 3-2, in the fourth. Angelis and Josh Spano started the frame with back-to-back doubles. Sean Wilson brought home Angelils with an RBI ground out to second base, moving Spano to third. Spano would later score on a passed ball.

The Panthers tied the game in the fifth. McDermott had a one-out single and scored two batters later on an RBI double by Angelis.

In the fifth, Ted Blackman drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and took third on Bowman’s single to right. With that single, Bowman now has 303 for his career, tying Brandon Powell (2000-03) for the school record. However, High Point avoided damage. On a hit-and-run, Witten hit a hot shot to third for a line out and Bowman was doubled off at first.

Coastal regained the lead in the sixth, scoring once to provide the eventual 4-3 final. Buccilli started the home half with a walk and moved to second on a Tucker Frawley sacrifice bunt. Justin Creel hit a deep fly out to right, allowing Buccilli to advance to third. The aggressive running by Buccilli paid off as Tripp Martin snuck a single off the third baseman’s glove to bring home Buccilli.

In the seventh, Bowman singled with two outs, giving the 2012 Big South Player of the Year his 304th career hit to become the school’s all-time leader and be six hits shy of the conference’s all-time mark of 310.

Austin Wallace battled through injury to give Coastal 4.2 innings to start the game. He did not allow through three innings and would end up allowing five hits and three runs.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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