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Coastal Carolina wins Big South Title after losing Game 1


Game 1: Liberty 13 Coastal Carolina 1

DANVILLE, Va. – Liberty freshman starter Stephen Evans limited No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina to three hits and the No. 2 seed Flames pounded out 13 runs and 14 hits in a 13-1 win over the Chanticleers in Game 10 of the 2008 Royal Purple Big South Conference Baseball Championship, forcing a necessary Game 11 to determine the Big South Tournament champion. The result marks the first time since 2006 that the tournament has gone to the necessary title game.

Liberty jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Kenneth Negron doubled down the left field line and moved to third on Errol Hollinger’s single to right. Hollinger advanced to second on a wild pitch by Coastal starter Austin Fleet, and after David Giammaresi struck out, Cody Brown singled to right center to score Negron. An error by Chanticleer center fielder David Sappelt put runners on second and third. Fleet then hit Garrett Young with a pitch to loaded the bases, but settled down and recorded a strikeout and groundout to escape any further damage.

But the Flames tacked on five runs in the fourth inning to move ahead 6-0. Young led off the inning with a solo home run, his first of the tournament and sixth of the season. With one out, Aaron Phillips singled to left to score Jeff Jefferson, and later Tim Rotola scored on a throwing error by Fleet. After Hollinger popped out, Giammaresi punched a two-run single to right to plate Negron and Phillips. Liberty added two runs in the fifth to increase its lead to 8-0.

Evans mowed down the Chanticleers for the first 4.1 innings, holding Coastal hitless and permitting just two baserunners. He also retired seven-straight batters during the stretch. In the fifth, Coastal’s Adam Rice knocked a double off the left field wall for the Chanticleers’ first hit, and came around to score CCU’s only run on Tommy Baldridge’s single up the middle.

The Flames continued to have its way with Coastal’s pitching, scoring twice in the sixth inning to stretch the lead to 10-1. With one out, Brown walked and advanced to second on Young’s infield single. After Aaron Grijalva flied out, Jefferson doubled to left to plate Brown and Young. The Flames added three more runs in the eighth for the final 13-1 margin.

Evans was masterful in just his sixth start of the year. He went eight innings, allowed three hits, one run and four walks, while striking out seven to even his record at 3-3. He did not permit a hit in his final two innings on the mound. Young produced his second four-hit game of the tournament and scored four times, while Jefferson had three RBI and two hits.

Coastal starter Fleet lasted four innings in falling to 5-3, giving up eight hits, seven runs (three earned) and one walk with one strikeout. Baldridge, Woodward, Rice and Dustin King had the Chanticleers’ four total hits on the day.

Liberty became the first team in Big South history to score 10 runs in four-straight tournament games, and has scored 53 runs in the tournament thus far, breaking the record for most runs scored in a tournament. The previous best was 52 runs, which was established by Winthrop in the 1987 tournament. Liberty is looking to become just the third team in League history to come back and win the Conference tournament after losing its first tournament game, joining Winthrop (1987) and UNC Greensboro (1997).

Game 2: Coastal Carolina 9 Liberty 2

DANVILLE, Va. – No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina came back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat No. 2 seed Liberty, 9-2 and win the 2008 Royal Purple Big South Conference Baseball Championship, May 24 at Dan Daniel Memorial Park in Danville, Va. Coastal wins its second consecutive Big South baseball tournament championship and Big South-record ninth title overall, and receives the Big South’s automatic berth to the NCAA Regional. Coastal is the first Big South team to win back-to-back championships since the Chanticleers won four consecutive tournament titles from 2001-04.

Liberty took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Kenneth Negron reached on a hit-by-pitch, took second on Errol Hollinger’s groundout and scored on Cody Brown’s two-out single to right field.

Coastal threatened in the third inning when Scott Woodward walked and took third on David Sappelt’s one-out single to right. But Dock Doyle struck out and Woodward was thrown out at home by Liberty shortstop Aaron Phillips on a double steal attempt. It was the second caught stealing in the inning, as Hollinger threw out Rico Noel trying to steal earlier in the frame after Noel had singled to start the inning.

The Chanticleers did cross the plate in the fourth inning when Tommy Baldridge scorched a one-out double to the gap in left center and moved to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Tyler Bortnick singled through the infield to score Baldridge and tie the game at 1-1.

Liberty regained the lead in the fifth. The Flames loaded the bases with one out, and a Coastal error allowed Aaron Phillips to score and make it 2-1. After Chanticleers starter Nick McCully struck out Brown for the second out, Joey Haug replaced McCully and got Garrett Young to pop out on his first pitch to end the threat.

Coastal came right back and scored in the bottom of the fifth. Noel led off with his second triple of the tournament, and tied the game at 2-2 on Woodward’s bloop-double to shallow center field. Woodward advanced to third on Sappelt’s deep fly out to center, and then raced home and slid under Hollinger’s tag after Doyle grounded out to first base, giving Coastal its first lead of the day at 3-2.

The Chanticleers added four runs in the sixth to extend their lead to 7-2 and tallied two more runs in the seventh for the eventual 9-2 win.

Haug was credited with the win and improved to 7-0. He allowed only one hit in 2.1 innings. Woodward, Baldridge and Noel each had three hits for the Chanticleers, while Jose Iglesias knocked in three runs. David Stokes (8-6) suffered the loss for Liberty. He gave up 13 hits and seven runs (all earned) in 5.2 innings. Hollinger led the Flames with two hits on the afternoon.

Bortnick earned Tournament MVP honors after hitting .500 (9-18) with eight RBI, two doubles, two home runs and a .944 slugging percentage for the tournament. The All-Tournament Team appears below and is comprised of four infielders, three outfielders, two pitchers, one catcher, one designated hitter and a utility position. In case of ties, additional awards are given.

C: Dock Doyle, Coastal Carolina and John Murrian, Winthrop
INF: Alex Gregory, Radford
INF: Cody Brown, Liberty
INF: Tyler Bortnick, Coastal Carolina (MVP)
INF: Bryn Henderson, Winthrop
OF: Jeff Jefferson, Liberty
OF: David Sappelt, Coastal Carolina
OF: Reggie Keen, Radford and Tommy Baldridge, Coastal Carolina
DH: Garrett Young, Liberty
UTL: Joey Haug, Coastal Carolina
P: Ryan Mullins, Winthrop
P: Dustin Umberger, Liberty and Steven Evans, Liberty

Coastal Carolina receives the Big South’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship Regionals. The national bracket will be announced Monday, May 26 at 12:30pm on ESPN.

Coastal Carolina Head Coach Gary Gilmore

“In that first game, they pitched so well. We dug a hole for ourselves in that game. That was probably the worst we played all year. It was good to come out in game two. We hung in there and hung in there and (Tyler) Bortnick’s hit kind of took the monkey off our back. We went to Joey (Haug) and got that pop out with the bases loaded. That was a huge out. That turned the game around. Base hit and we have our hands full. He did a terrific job. Now the big mountain that we have yet to climb is in front of us. We’ll see if we can get it done.”

Liberty Head Coach Jim Toman

“We put together a quick run over the past few days and unfortunately, we came up a couple innings short. I am really proud of how our guys battled back after dropping their first game and their effort was superb. Congratulations to Coastal Carolina for their season. They should represent the Conference well.”

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