Witten’s walk-off homer lifts Chants to sweep of Keydets

Rich Witten had two big hits Saturday, the second being a walk-off home run, to give Coastal Carolina a 3-2 win over VMI Sunday afternoon at Watson Stadium/Vrooman Field before a national ESPNU telecast.

The Chanticleers (24-11, 7-2 Big South) get their first conference sweep of the season and run their winning streak to 16 straight victories over the Keydets (11-25, 4-11).

Witten’s first big hit came in the sixth. With two on and one out, VMI turned to Reed Garrett out of the bullpen. Witten promptly hit the first pitch he saw to the left field wall for a two-run double, tying the game at 2-2. Then, in the ninth, Witten led off the home half and launched a 2-1 pitch over the left-center field wall for his first home run of the season and 13th of his career.

While Witten was responsible for all three CCU runs, it was Chanticleer closer Ryan Connolly that kept the game tied at 2-2 in the eighth. Connolly (2-1) entered the game with one out and bases loaded in the top of the eighth. The junior struck out pinch hitter Brandon Diamond and got Michael Donovan to ground out to end the top half. Connolly would strike out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to set the stage for Witten’s heroics.

Both starting pitchers faced early trouble, but VMI’s Campbell Henkel kept Coastal off the scoreboard through five innings.

After throwing out Alex Buccilli at the plate to end the first inning, the Keydets took their first lead of the weekend, scoring once in the top of the second. Jacob Morley drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a Berkley Hawkins sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Cameron Walter lined an RBI single to left field.

VMI scored again in the third. Rob Dickinson hit a one-out double and, with two outs, Eric Mayers reached on an error and Dickinson scored from second base.

Coastal tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth. Jacob May, who had two hits in the game, had a leadoff single and Daniel Bowman put runners on first and second with a single to center. After May stole third, Witten delivered his two-run double.

Austin Wallace started for CCU and pitched five innings. He only allowed three hits, two runs (one earned) and a walk with three strikeouts. Aaron Burke pitched the next 2.1 innings, allowing two hits and a walk with a strikeout. For VMI, Henkel allowed five hits and two runs over 5.1 innings. R. Garrett surrendered the one hit to Witten in the sixth inning over his 1.2 innings. John Garrett (0-2) suffered the loss, allowing the Witten home run.

Coastal Carolina will hit the road for one game, traveling to Blacksburg, Va., to face ACC foe Virginia Tech on Tuesday (April 17). First pitch is set for 5:30 pm. The Hokies, who beat Coastal 3-1 on Feb. 25 despite 10 strikeouts from Josh Conway, are 25-13 and took two-of-three games from #6 Miami Hurricanes this past weekend.

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