Six-Shooters: Chants claim sixth straight Big South title

Coastal Carolina scored three runs in the first and Ryan Connolly pitched 5.1 scoreless innings in relief as the top seeded Chanticleers won their sixth straight Big South Tournament Championship with a 4-1 victory over third-seeded Liberty Saturday afternoon at High Point’s Williard Stadium.

The Chanticleers, who have also won six straight regular-season championships, become the first team in Big South history to win six consecutive baseball tournament championships and receive the Big South’s automatic berth to the NCAA Regional.

Coastal will find out its fate for the NCAA Regional as the national bracket will be announced Monday, May 28 at Noon, live on ESPNU. The Chanticleer baseball team will welcome fans to join them at a watch party, held at Handley’s Pub & Grub in Carolina Forest.

Connolly and fellow relief pitcher Aaron Burke, each of who went 2-0 for the event, were named Co-MVPs of the 2012 Big South Tournament, presented by Brookwood Farms BBQ and Triangle Rent A Car. Connolly (5-2) pitched 5.1 innings today, scattering five hits with a walk and five strikeouts. For the tournament, he pitched 11.1 scoreless innings, allowing nine hits and one walk with nine strikeouts. Burke allowed one run in 9.2 innings, allowing seven hits and no walks with five strikeouts.

Joining Connolly and Burke on the All-Tournament team were Daniel Bowman, who batted .692 with seven runs scored; Rich Witten, who batted .385 with eight RBI; and Alex Buccilli, who drove in four on four hits. Buccilli was 2-for-4 with two RBI to secure his spot on the All-Tournament team.

Coastal Carolina raced out to a 3-0 lead, sending nine men to the plate in the first. Ted Blackman, who was 3-for-4 with two runs scored, had a leadoff single and Jacob May followed with a bunt single. After a Bowman sacrifice bunt, Witten was intentionally walked. Buccilli made the Flames pay with a two-run single. Two batters later, Justin Creel delivered an RBI single for the 3-0 cushion.

Liberty got on the board in the third. Zack Haley had a leadoff double and moved to third on n Ian Parmley bunt single. Andy Smith hit into a double play, but Haley scored on the play to make the score 3-1.

In the fourth, CCU starter Tyler Herb walked the first two batters, leading to a head coach Gary Gilmore turning to Connolly in the bullpen. Flames catcher Trey Wimmer attempted to bunt the two runners over, but his attempt was a pop up that Connolly caught diving toward home plate. On the play, Connolly turned and threw out Bryan Aanderud from his knees to complete the double play. A ground out ended the threat.

Connolly, who has not allowed an earned run in six Big South Tournament appearances (15.1 innings), worked out of another jam in the sixth. Alex Close had a leadoff single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Tyler Cox put runners on first and third with a single, but Connolly recorded back-to-back strikeouts to keep the score 3-1.

After being blanked for five innings, Coastal pushed it advantage to 4-1 in the seventh. Blackman singled and took second on a sac bunt. After Bowman was intentionally walked, Blackman stole third. Witten drove a ball to center field which was deep enough to drive in Blackman.

With two one and one out in the ninth, Coastal turned to freshman Ben Smith to close the game versus left-handed hitting Parmley and Smith. The Chanticleer lefty got Parmley to fly out and, after running the count full, struck out Smith to end the game and earn his third save of the season.

The 2012 Big South All-Tournament Team

P:  Aaron Burke, Coastal Carolina (co-MVP)
P:  Ryan Connolly, Coastal Carolina (co-MVP)
P:  Patrick Eckelbarger, Liberty
P:  Beau Hilton, Gardner-Webb
DH:  Alex Buccilli, Coastal Carolina
OF:  Daniel Bowman, Coastal Carolina
OF:  Devin Bujnovsky, High Point
OF:  Benji Jackson, Gardner-Webb
INF:  Rich Witten, Coastal Carolina
INF:  Alex Close, Liberty
INF:  Ryan Retz, High Point
INF:  Dusty Quattlebaum, Gardner-Webb
C:  Trey Wimmer, Liberty
UTL:  Spencer Angelis, High Point

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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