Witten powers Chanticleers to sweep of Great Danes

Rich Witten had an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to give Coastal Carolina a 3-2 win in game one and a three-run double in game two helping the Chants (15-6) win 7-4 in  a doubleheader sweep over Albany (5-14) Friday evening at Watson Stadium/Vrooman Field.

The Chanticleers have now won eight straight.

The teams played a doubleheader Friday due to the threat of inclement weather. The programs had discussed attempting to play a single game Saturday, but the forecast is not favorable. The series will conclude, as scheduled, on Sunday at 2 pm. Prior to the game, Coastal Carolina will present members of the 2011 Chanticleer baseball squad their championship rings. Coastal has won each of the last Big South regular season and tournament titles, setting a conference record in the process.

Witten went 4-for-7 with four RBI on the day, including 3-for-3 with three RBI in game two. The senior captain raised his batting average 28 points to .293 and has now reached base safely (hit/walk/hit by pitch) in 18 straight games. Jacob May added two hits in both games of the doubleheader

The Great Danes took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the first contest. With two out and two on, D.J. Hoagboon reached on an error, allowing Joey Tracy, who had walked, to score. Coastal threatened in the home half, getting the first two runners on thanks to walks, but the two were left stranded.

Albany extended its lead in the second. After a one-out single by Gordon Madej, Nolan Gaige came through with a two-out, RBI triple.

Coastal cut its deficit in half in the third. May had a one-out single and Justin Creel walked for the second time in as many at bats. After a double steal, Alex Buccilli brought home May with a sacrifice fly to right-center field.

The Chants tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth. Sloan Gilliam had a leadoff single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and advanced to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Creel hit an RBI single to right-center.

Coastal grabbed the lead, 3-2, in the bottom of the eighth. Buccilli had a leadoff single and was lifted for pinch runner Luke Willis. After a steal, Willis took third on a sacrifice bunt by Daniel Bowman. With a drawn-in infield, Witten slapped an RBI single up the middle. Tucker Frawley followed with an infield single.

Both starting pitchers suffered tough-luck decisions. For Coastal, Josh Conway did not get a decision, leaving the game after six innings. He allowed two runs (one earned), a season-high seven hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. UAlbany starter Zach Kraham (0-4) threw a complete game , but suffered the loss. He scattered eight hits, allowed three runs and walked four.

Austin Wallace (0-1) earned his first win as a Chanticleer, pitching two scoreless and hitless innings. He walked one and struck out one. Aaron Burke worked the ninth to earn his third save, walking one and striking out one. Although he walked the one batter, he only faced three batters as Gaige, who walked, was caught stealing second for the final out of the game.

Game two started in near identical fashion. With two out and two on in the first inning, D.J. Hoagboon reached on an error, allowing Pete DiResta, who was hit by a pitch, to score and give the Great Danes a 1-0 lead.

The lead would be short lived. May and Creel had lead off singles and, after a sacrifice bunt, Bowman loaded the bases as he was hit by a pitch. Facing a 1-2 count, Witten laced a double down the third base line, bring home the three runs for a 3-1 lead.

Albany took advantage of an error to score once in the third to make the score 3-2. Gaige had a leadoff single and Joey Tracy reached on a throwing error, which would put runners on second and third. Gaige would score on a wild pitch and the Danes loaded the bases after back-to-back walks. However, Herb induced an inning-ending double play to limit the damage.

Coastal scored twice in the fourth, thanks to an Albany error. Witten and Gilliam had leadoff walks. Chris Suseck laid down a sacrifice bunt, but a throwing error allowed Witten and Gilliam to score for a 5-2 lead.

The runs proved key as the Great Danes answered with two in the top of the fifth. Tracy walked to start the frame and, two batters later, scored on Mike Tirri’s single. Tirri would later score on Greg Muller’s RBI single to center, making it a one-run game (5-4).

The Chants padded their advantage in the eighth. Witten had a leadoff double and Gilliam singled. Two batters later, Luke Willis doubled down the right field line, plating Witten and Gilliam and marking the first two RBI for Willis’ career.

Tyler Herb (3-1) was credited with the win, pitching five complete. He allowed five hits and four runs (two earned) with three walks and five strikeouts. Freshman Austin Kerr, whose previous career long was 1.2 innings, pitched 3.0 scoreless, allowing one hit and striking out two, to bridge the gap to Ryan Connolly. Connolly earned his fifth save of the season, allowing a hit and striking out one in the ninth inning.

Albany starter Sean Lucas was effective, but fell to 1-3 on the season. He allowed six hits and five runs (three earned) over six innings of work.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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