Georgia Southern put a scare into the defending national champions, but a ninth-inning rally fell short and Coastal Carolina walked away with a 6-5 victory Friday night in Conway, S.C.
Trailing 6-2 heading into the final inning, the Eagles (24-14, 9-7 Sun Belt) didn’t back down. Chanticleer pitcher Austin Kitchen had worked a clean eighth inning, but surrendered a leadoff double to Mason McWhorter in the ninth. Evan McDonald and Jacob Greene each singled - with Greene’s hit driving in a run - and Logan Baldwin punched a single into right to load the bases and chase Kitchen from the game.
Steven Curry and Mitchell Golden brought the Eagles to within a run with a pair of RBI groundouts off of Bobby Holmes, but Holmes managed to put out the fire just in time for Coastal (23-13-1, 11-4-1) as he got Jordan Wren to fly out to center for the game’s final out.
“"We fought back well,” GS coach Rodney Hennon said. “But you make it tough on yourselves when you spot a guy like Cunningham a lead. We had some good at bats late, but we've got to play good baseball for all nine innings.”
Eagle starter Jacob Condra-Bogan had been stellar since moving into the Friday night role last month, but ran into trouble early and often against the Chanticleers.
Billy Cook sent Condra-Bogan’s first pitch of the night into the gap in right center for a double. Wood Meyers followed with a single and CCU was up 1-0 after just four pitches. The Chanticleers didn’t stop there as Peyton Isaacson ripped an RBI single and Corey Wood drove in a run with a groundout to put the defending champs up 3-0 after one inning.
McWhorter struck the first blow for the Eagle offense with an opposite field homer to left off of Alex Cunningham in the second inning, but CCU struck back with a vengeance. In the bottom of the third, Condra-Bogan issued a leadoff walk to Meyers before committing a balk that sent Meyers to second. Meyers scored on a single and - after Anthony Paesano had relieved Condra-Bogan - Isaacson delivered the big blow with a two-run double into the right field corner.
Ryan Cleveland launched his ninth home run of the season for Georgia Southern in the fourth inning, but it was a solo and only got GS within 6-2. Paesano and Brian Eichhorn were solid in keeping the Chanticleers off the scoreboard for the rest of the night, but the Eagles began to bleed outs as Cunningham allowed only the two home runs and struck out nine in seven innings of work.
Evan Challenger returns to the Eagles’ starting rotation as Georgia Southern tries to even the series this afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.