No repeat for Lady Chants despite valiant comebacks

After staving off elimination with three come-from-behind victories, the Coastal Carolina softball fell victim to one early Saturday evening as fifth-seeded Winthrop scored two runs in the seventh inning to pull out a 4-3 win over the top-seeded Chanticleers in the semifinals of the Big South Tournament.

The tough defeat ended Coastal’s bid for a second straight Big South tourney championship as they finished the season with a 37-22 record. Winthrop (28-28) advanced to face Longwood in Sunday’s title game.

The Chants led twice in the game and got a strong outing from Morgan Mastriania in the circle, but the Eagles were able to scratch across the tying and go-ahead runs in the top of seventh on several plays where inches made a difference. Leading off, Melanie Andrea singled off the glove of third baseman Kory Hayden. After a forceout at second and a walk, McKenzie Corn singled just out of the reach of diving second baseman Sara Rasley into right field to tie the game. Coastal was able to throw out the runner from first at third base on the play for the second out, but Corn went to second on the throw.

Kiana Quolas came on in relief of Mastriania to face cleanup hitter Chelsey Schoenfeldt and got ahead in the count. Schoenfeldt battled back, though, and hit a liner on a 2-2 pitch off the glove of first baseman Jazmin Daigle. The ball caromed behind Daigle near the outfield. She was able to corral it and dove back to the bag, but the diving Schoenfeldt got there first as Corn scored to make it 4-3.

CCU was unable to generate another rally in the bottom of the seventh as Winthrop pitcher Sutton Watson got two groundouts around a strikeout to finish it.

Unlike every other game in the tournament, Coastal played from ahead for much of this one. The Chants scored single runs in the first and second to take a 2-0 lead. Cacia Pierre got them on the board with a two-out RBI single to left-center. Bri Chiusano had led off with a single to right and went to second on her 29th stolen base of the year.

In the second, Brooke Donovan hit a leadoff double to left-center, went to third on a sacrifice by Daigle and came home after an errant throw to first.

However, Winthrop tied it with two swings of the bat in the third as Corn and Schoenfeldt, the Eagles’ two offensive leaders, hit back-to-back line-drive home runs that just cleared the fence.

Jessie Winans gave the Chanticleers the lead back when she led off the fifth by homering to left, her eighth of the season. Quolas and Hayden followed with consecutive singles and it looked like the Chants would add to their lead when Cacia Pierre flew one into left-center. Winthrop leftfielder Corn ran it down just in front of the fence, though, and threw to second to double up pinch-runner Nicole Saggiomo.

Coastal finished the game with seven hits, while Winthrop had eight. Mastriania allowed seven hits, struck out five and walked four in 6.2 innings. Watson struck out six without a walk in going the distance.

The Chanticleers finished the 2013 campaign having the fifth-most games in school history and a record seventh Big South regular-season championship, along with setting a program-record 70 home runs and Quolas taking conference Pitcher of the Year honors.

Seniors Daigle and Pierre wrapped up their careers having played in 225 and 217 games, respectively, in Chanticleer uniforms and helping CCU to two conference championships.

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