Cunningham’s 14-K outing keeps Chants in title chase

ccubase-Alex Cunningham vs AStateFor the second time this season, Golden Spikes candidate Alex Cunningham struck out 14 batters to tie a Coastal Carolina single-game record and lead the 24th-anked Chanticleers to a 5-0 victory over Appalachian State Thursday afternoon at Springs Brooks Stadium.

Game two between the Chanticleers (35-18-1, 20-7-1 Sun Belt) and Mountaineers (19-34, 8-20 Sun Belt) is set for 6 pm Friday. Coastal is currently a half-game out of first place in the Sun Belt East with two games remaining.

Cunningham, who leads the Sun Belt in strikeouts, ran his season total to 115 to move to sixth on the CCU single-season list. Cunningham also stuck out 14 batters in 6.2 innings this past March versus San Francisco. It marked Cunningham’s fourth time to reach double digits in strikeouts this season – fanning 10 and 11 respectively in back-to-back, complete-game shutouts in late March – and sixth time for his career.

The senior left to a standing ovation in his final game at home after getting a ground out (and throwing his 120th pitch of the game) in the top of the ninth, just missing out on his third complete-game shutout of the season. It marked Coastal’s eighth shutout of the season, fourth with Cunningham as the starting pitcher.

Cunningham improves to 7-2 on the season (25-7 for his career to move to 11th on the CCU all-time wins list) as he allowed two hits and three walks to accompany his 14 K’s. He retired the first 12 batters he faced, with seven strikeouts, before allowing a leadoff infield single in the fifth. Overall, Cunningham worked five 3-up, 3-down innings, striking out the side in the eighth.

Coastal took advantage of an App State error to take a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. Kevin Woodall Jr., hit a one-out double and moved to third on a Wood Myers infield single. Kieton Rivers followed with a ground ball to short stop, but an error allowed all runners to be safe and Rivers was credited with an RBI and Woodall scored on the play. Coastal loaded the bases on a Cory Wood walk and Myers scored on a balk to go up 2-0.

In the seventh inning, Coastal manufactured a run to take a 3-0 lead. Wood laid down a bunt single, took second on a ground out, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error. Then, three consecutive hits – single by Billy Cooke, double by Jordan Gore and RBI single by Woodall, put the Chants on top 4-0.

The Chants added an insurance run in the eighth to provide the 5-0 final. Seth Lancaster drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a Wood sacrifice bunt and scored on Matt Beaird’s RBI double down the first base line.

After Cunningham left in the ninth, App State managed back-to-back singles off Patrick Orlando. Cole Schaefer was called on from the bullpen and threw a wild pitch on his fist offering to put runners on second and third. However, the senior rallied to record a pair of strikeouts to preserve the shutout.

The Mountaineers only managed four hits, two each from Tyler Stroup and Brian Bauk. Matt Schaeffer (1-2) pitched well, but suffered the loss as he allowed seven hits and four runs (three earned) in 6.2 innings.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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