G-W rallies to beat Chants despite Smith’s 12-K outing

Coastal Carolina sophomore Ben Smith struck out a career-high 12 through seven innings – one shy of the school record – but Gardner-Webb scored three in the eighth inning and two in the ninth off the Chanticleer bullpen to claim a 6-3 victory Friday night at Pelicans Ballpark.

Gardner-Webb improves to 13-8-1 overall and 2-2 in the Big South, while Coastal drops to 11-11 and 0-1 in league play. The loss ended a streak of 14 consecutive wins in league openers for the Chants, dating back to 1999, and a streak of 15 consecutive home conference openers, dating back to 1998.

Smith started the game by striking out the side and he struck out two over the next two innings. He ran into trouble in the fifth as Gardner-Webb scratched the scoreboard first. Sam Fulginiti hit a one-out, seeing-eye single in the top of the fifth and, with two outs, Scott Johnson, Ryan Hodge and JJ Nazzaro drew consecutive walks, the last forcing in a run. Smith struck out Henry Rundio to limit the damage in the fifth to start a streak of six straight strikeouts over the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

While Smith was cruising, Coastal managed to push two runs across in the sixth to take a 2-1 lead. Colin Hering walked to start the home half and Will Remillard singled to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. Alex Buccilli delivered a pinch-hit single to load the bases. Ted Blackman snuck a single back up the middle that scored both Hering and Remillard.

In the eighth inning, Nazzaro singled with one out off Aaron Burke (1-2). Rundio reached on an error and Scott Coleman lined a two-run triple down the right field line. Two batters later and with two outs, Benji Jackson hit a slow roller to third for an infield hit to drive in pinch runner Alex Newman for a 4-2 lead.

Coastal trimmed its deficit to one, 4-3, in the bottom of the eighth. Blackman singled, took second when Justin Creel was hit by a pitch and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Pinch Hitter Jake Kane drove in Blackman with a sacrifice fly to center.

In the top of the ninth, the Runnin’ Bulldogs put the game out of reach, thanks a to CCU error. Pinch hitter John Harris was hit by a pitch and Nazzaro walked. With two outs, Rundio singled to right field, but an error allowed Harris and Nazzaro to score to provide the 6-3 final.

Brad Haymes (2-0) earned the win. He pitched 1.1 innings in middle relief, allowing one hit and one run with no walks and a strikeout. Jeff Howell picked up save number four on the season, allowing one hit in a scoreless ninth.

For Coastal, Burke suffered the loss, allowing two hits and three runs (one earned) in 0.1 innings.

Coastal Carolina and Gardner-Webb are set to play game two of the series Saturday at 6 pm.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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