CONWAY, SC: It’s Deja’ vu for Coastal Carolina baseball as the Chanticleers once again survived two elimination games on Sunday to force a winner-take-all matchup in a regional. Last year, CCU beat both Virginia and East Carolina in Greenville, NC, before ultimately falling to the Pirates 13-4 in the finals. This time, Coastal knocked off Rider and Duke to set up another regional final contest with the Blue Devils on Monday night at 6pm in Conway. The winner heads to the Super Regionals against Virginia.
Game #1 CCU vs. Rider: For the third straight game, Coastal Carolina got a quality start from one of its pitchers en route to a 13-5 win over Rider in the afternoon elimination game at Springs Brooks Stadium. The victory avenged CCU’s stunning loss to the Broncs on Friday and put the Chanticleers in the regional final against Duke.
Super-senior RHP Jack Billings put on a show for the near-capacity crowd as he flirted with the first ever perfect game in NCAA tournament history. The New Jersey native baffled his home state school, working 7 and 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on five hits with four strikeouts and one walk. However, his final line doesn’t do justice to the job he did on the mound. Billings retired the first eighteen batters he faced before giving up a lead-off single to John Volpe in the seventh. Volpe’s hit was just over the outstretched glove of first baseman Zack Beach and prompted a standing ovation from the crowd in Conway for Billings’ efforts. The base hit also got the teal-clad fans shifting in their seats a bit as it conjured up bad memories from Friday.
In Rider’s 11-10 extra-inning victory over CCU to begin the regional, the Broncs scored nine runs in the seventh inning to erase a 5-0 deficit. However, this was a different day for Coastal, as Billings was able to get out of the frame, allowing just one run and exiting an inning later with CCU in control.
Offensively, the Chanticleers delivered another double-digit run performance, their third straight in the regional and thirtieth this season. CCU is 29-1 on the year when scoring ten or more runs, with the lone loss coming to Rider on Friday.
CCU Postgame Press Conference — Gilmore and Billings
Game #2 CCU vs. Duke: Coastal got a grand slam and a strong relief performance from Bryce Shaffer to hold off Duke 8-6 on Sunday night in Conway. The Chanticleers 42nd win of the season was not without some drama, as the Blue Devils belted three home runs and held a 5-4 lead entering the fourth inning. However, a 3-spot in the seventh proved to be the difference for Coastal, as the Chanticleers picked up the win in their first matchup with Duke in the postseason.
The long ball parade had plenty of participants, as both Graham Brown of Coastal and Damon Lux of Duke hit grand slams. For Brown, it was his second such home run in two days and lifted CCU’s season total to nine. Derek Bender’s two-run shot in the 7th gave him his 83rd RBI, setting the program record for runs driven in during a season. Alex Stone also connected on two long balls for the Devils, both solo shots in the 2nd and 8th innings.
Shaffer worked a season-high six innings, allowing just two runs on three hits to record his fifth win of the year. Teddy Sharkey, who was named a Collegiate Baseball All-American this past week, worked an inning and two-thirds for his 11th save of the year.