Coastal Carolina brought their 31-11 record to Russ Chandler Stadium as one of the hottest teams in college baseball. With poll rankings around the mid-teens in various polls and an RPI of 10, the Chanticleers were seriously pushing to host a Regional at their new facility. Baseball America even listed them as a National Seed candidate. Obviously, a road series win over RPI #22 Georgia Tech would help to solidify the bid, while, conversely, the Yellow Jackets would benefit equally from winning the series. The last meeting came at the Baseball at the Beach tournament in February last year, which Coastal won 7-5, their third win in a row over Georgia Tech. The Jackets had suffered an embarrassing loss to uga on Tuesday and were in the middle of a 13-day break from ACC play for final exams. Carter Hall started all three games at 2nd base to give Wade Bailey a rest.
|#15 Coastal Carolina (31-12)||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||1||6||1|
|#25 Georgia Tech (28-14)||0||0||3||1||4||0||1||0||X||9||8||0|
Brandon Gold (4-2, 2.52 ERA) started Friday, hoping to break a two-game Friday losing streak. The Chanticleers sent Alex Cunningham (6-2, 4.10 ERA).
Gold responded with one of his best games yet: 8 strong innings of 6-hit, 1-run ball. To help him, the Jackets put together a nearly perfect game behind him in the field and at the plate.
Until the bottom of the 3rd, the only highlight was Tech's NCAA-leading 60th double play of the season in the 1st. In the bottom of the 3rd, the Jackets broke through with 3 runs on 3 walks, a Matt Gonzalez sac fly, and an error when a Kel Johnson fly ball was dropped by the RF for 2 more runs. Only a fantastic catch by the CF Billy Cooke (robbing Ryan Peurifoy of extra bases) prevented more damage. Peurifoy helped Tech add a run in the 4th on an RBI single for a 4-0 Georgia Tech lead.
Coastal got their only run of the game in the top of the 5th on a 2-out RBI single by G. K. Young (one of four consecutive Chanticleers in the batting order with 40 HR's between them). In the bottom of the inning, however, a Brandt Stallings grand slam made it 8-1 off of Chanticleer relief pitcher Zach Hopeck. In the bottom of the 7th, Johnson doubled, moved to 3rd on a Trevor English flyout, and scored on a Trevor Craport groundout.
The final score was 9-1 after Burton Dulaney closed the game with a scoreless 9th. This was huge win for the Jackets that got some attention in the college baseball media.
|#15 Coastal Carolina (31-13)||1||1||0||5||0||0||1||0||0||8||9||1|
|#25 Georgia Tech (29-14)||0||2||3||0||0||0||0||0||4||9||14||1|
Although Cole Pitts struck out 5 Chanticleers in the first two innings, he had also allowed solo home runs in each inning to Young and Tyler Chadwick. The Jackets trailed 2-0 headed to the bottom of the 2nd. After two quick outs, Craport was hit by a pitch, and immediately lightning was detected nearby, resulting in a 66-minute delay. The Jackets took full advantage of the break once the game resumed, tying the game on an RBI double by Joey Bart and an RBI single by Stallings off of Chanticleer starter Bobby Holmes.
In the bottom of the third, Johnson drove in Carter Hall and Matt Gonzalez with a one-out single before scoring himself on a two-out Craport hit. Three runs on the inning gave Georgia Tech a 5-2 lead.
Coastal loaded the bases with one out in the top of the 4th, thanks in part to a Connor Justus error. With a 3-1 count to Seth Lancaster, another lightning delay struck. The Jackets were in a dangerous situation - what would happen? Play would resume at 11 AM Sunday.
What happened was not good - Ben Parr came in and walked in a run before allowing a grand slam to Chanticleer pinch hitter Kevin Woodall. Suddenly, it was 7-5 Coastal heading into the bottom of the 4th. Ace relief pitcher Andrew Beckwith came in to pitch for Coastal Carolina, and immediately shut the Jackets down with 5 innings of three-hit shutout ball. Meanwhile, the Chanticleers' offense added another solo home run in their 7th to make it an 8-5 lead. Zac Ryan entered in the eighth and pitched two scoreless innings to keep Tech in the game, which was very welcome and sorely needed.
The Chanticleers' lead held until the "Cardiac Jackets" appeared in the bottom of the 9th inning. Stallings led off the inning with a double and was immediately driven in by a Peurifoy single. With no outs yet recorded in the inning, Coastal went to closer Mike Morrison, who hadn't given up a run in 30 consecutive innings. Connor Justus seemed undeterred by such streaks, hitting a two-run homer on Morrison's third pitch of the game and - BOOM - the game was tied 8-8! After a Carter Hall single, with no outs and a 1-1 count, Matt Gonzalez slammed a double off the left-center field wall near the scoreboard. Hall had been running on the pitch, and managed to score from first for a walk-off win!
Zac Ryan was credited with the win, and we were all reminded - don't ever count this team out.
|#15 Coastal Carolina (31-14)||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||2||5||0|
|#25 Georgia Tech (30-14)||2||2||0||0||0||0||X||4||4||0|
Coastal scored quickly off of Yellow Jacket starter Jake Lee in their 1st with a walk and two singles. A hit-by-pitch had the bases full of Chanticleers with two outs before Lee was able to work out of the jam, stranding all of them.
The Jackets quickly answered with 2 runs in the bottom of the 1st with a leadoff hit-by-pitch to Justus followed by a Hall RBI double. Hall then scored on a Kel Johnson sacrifice fly to give Georgia Tech a 2-1 lead. Tech tacked on another pair of runs in the 2nd, beginning when Craport was nailed in the batting helmet with a pitch and had to come out of the game. (He was later seen smiling with a small bandage on his ear.) Keenan Innis pinch ran and scored on an Arden Pabst 2-out double. Justus later drove in Pabst to make it a 4-1 Yellow Jacket lead.
It stayed that way until the top of the 5th, when Zach Remillard's long fly ball to left was tracked down by Innis - only to come out of his glove when he hit the wall and go over for a home run cutting Georgia Tech's lead to 4-2. Jake Lee remained unfazed, however, and completed his 6 strong innings of 5-hit, 2-run ball. Burton Dulaney came in to pitch the 7th, and delivered a 1-2-3 inning against the top of the Chanticleer's powerful lineup.
With one out in Tech's 7th, yet another lightning delay combined with Coastal's travel requirements led to the game being called after an hour or so for a Tech victory and the sweep. Lee got the win and Dulaney a save. Tech turned their 61st double play of the year, and were out-hit 5-4, but only left 2 base runners on base compared to 7 for Coastal. It was tied for the second-fewest runs scored all year by the Yellow Jackets in a winning effort, with only a 3-2 win in the series opener against North Carolina featuring fewer.
Honestly, if you had offered me a guaranteed 2-1 series win over this strong Coastal Carolina team on Friday, I would have taken it. In retrospect, I'm glad that didn't happen, because the Jackets put together their second great weekend in a row, topping the series win at Clemson. Yes, the Tuesday loss to uga caused some pain, but this sweep of a top 20 team that was red hot will grab all the national attention and put the Jackets right back in consideration to be a Regional Host. The team needs to get finals done and then prepare to meet the top-5 Miami Hurricanes beginning next Saturday. Go Jackets!