Just-in Time: CCU’s Creel caps comeback over CSU

Top-seeded Coastal Carolina trailed 8-6 going into its final at bats but took advantage of three errors by the Charleston Southern shortstop to score three in the ninth, including a game-winning, bases-loaded single by Justin Creel to claim a 9-8 win over the eighth-seeded Buccaneers in the opening round of the 2012 Big South Baseball Championship at Williard Stadium on the campus of High Point University.

Coastal Carolina improves to 38-17 and plays fifth-seed Radford on Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 pm. The Chanticleers win their 12th-straight Big South Tournament game and avoided being the first top seed to lose to an eight seed. Coastal took 2-of-3 at Radford in the Chanticleers’ opening Big South series of the season (March 30-April 1).

Ted Blackman started the ninth by reaching on a throwing error by the shortstop. Jacob May followed with a single, as did Daniel Bowman thanks to miscommunication by the Buccaneer defense. Bowman laid down an excellent bunt down the third base line, but no one was covering first base to load the bases. After a strikeout, Alex Buccilli reached on a fielder’s choice when his ground ball to short was mishandled, keeping the bases loaded and scoring Blackman. It was virtual replay on the next at bat as Tucker Frawley reached on an error by the shortstop, keeping the bases loaded and driving in May. Creel, who hit a grand slam last Friday in a win at Charleston Southern, beat a drawn-in infield with a single back up the middle, scoring Bowman for the game winner. The second baseman finished the game 3-for-5 at the plate.

Coastal was down as much as 7-2 through six-and-a-half innings, but Coastal’s Aaron Burke, the 2012 Big South co-Pitcher of the Year, pitched the final 5.1 innings to give the Chants’s a chance. The junior improved to 9-5 as he only allowed two hits and one run with three strikeouts.

Coastal starter Tyler Herb got off to a shaky start, hitting leadoff hitter Bobby Ison with the first pitch of the game. After a sacrifice bunt, John Faircloth, who went 3-for-5 with two RBI, singled through the right side of the infield to drive in Ison.

The Chants answered back as May drew a leadoff walk and took second on a wild pitch. Bowman followed with an infield single. On the play, a throwing error allowed May to score. Bowman would reach second on a wild pitch and scored on Witten’s RBI single to left.

Charleston Southern then took advantage of an error to score three runs in the second to take a 4-2 lead. After a leadoff single by Walt Quattlebaum, Harrison Wilkins followed with a bunt back to the pitcher, who hesitated before throwing late to second base. Blake Hunt laid down a bunt as well, but a throwing error to third base allowed two to score. After getting two outs, Faircloth delivered an RBI single.

The Buccaneers added three runs in the fourth to go up 7-2.  Faircloth and Robbie Street came through with one-out singles, while Alex Tomasovich was hit by a pitch with two outs to load the bases. Quattlebaum walked to plate Faircloth and Wilkins followed with a two-run single to chase Herb. The sophomore would allow a career-high nine hits and seven runs (four earned).

Coastal capitalized on a break in the seventh to cut its deficit to two, 7-5. Charleston Southern starter Ryan Gunther had retired 14 of his last 15 from the third inning into the seventh. Then, with two out, May struck out swinging, but a wild pitch allowed the sophomore to reach first. After he stole second, Bowman worked the count full and drew a walk. After a ball to Witten, Gunther grooved a pitch that Witten launched over the left field fence for his fifth home run of the season. The three-run blast, coupled with his RBI single in the first, gives the senior 150 for his career, moving him up two spots to ninth on the CCU career list.

Charleston Southern got a run back in the eighth to go up 8-5. After Burke had retired 10 of 12 batters upon entering the game, the right-hander hit Streett with a pitch with one out in the eighth and Chase Shelton followed with an RBI double down the left field line. In the home half, Tucker Frawley had a leadoff single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Brian Pruett’s bloop single to right center field was enough to drive in Frawley to make the score 8-6.

Burke worked a perfect ninth to set up the thrilling finish.

Bowman, who scored the game-winning run for a team-best ninth time this season, finished the day 3-for-4 with three runs scored. The 2012 Big South Player of the Year is one hit shy of becoming the first player in school history with 200 career RBI, 200 career runs scored and 300 career hits. Also, he is now just four hits shy of the CCU record (303 by Brandon Powell) and 11 shy of the Big South record (310 by Winthrops’s Chris Carrara). Bowman is also one at bat shy of the Big South career record of 945, held by Carrara. With three total bases, Bowman moves to second on the Big South all-time list, tying Winthrop’s Jacob Dempsey, and is just four total bases shy of the conference’s all-time mark of 517, held by Winthrop’s Jason Colson.

Photo courtesy of Big South Conference

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