The Mountaineers rallied from down 2-0 in the ninth inning to send the game to extras, and seemed primed multiple times to take the lead or win, only to have the Chanticleers make key plays time and again to win their fourth in a row and send a reeling WVU team to its third straight loss and fourth in five games since a season-opening series win at Clemson.
West Virginia (3-5), shutout for the first eight innings, scored twice to tie after starter Alex Cunningham left the game in the ninth, then went ahead 3-2 in the 12th only to have Coastal answer with a run of its own in the bottom half. The Mountaineers then loaded the bases with one out in the 13th before Brad Johnson was thrown out at home on Shaun Wood’s fly out to leftfield. Johnson was out by multiple steps via the throw from Connor Owings, and Coastal Carolina rode the momentum in the bottom half when Young drilled the first pitch from reliever Connor Dotson over the right field wall for the win.
Dotson, who entered after a brilliant performance by WVU starter Ross Vance and a solid 1.1 innings of relief from Blake Smith, was saddled with his first loss of the season. Andrew Beckwith (1-0) picked up the victory after pitching the top of the 13th inning. The contest didn’t figure to get to extras after Cunningham was dominant through eight innings, pitching a three-hit shutout and taking a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning before Justin Fox and Jackson Cramer hit consecutive singles to end his outing. Still, the right-hander got through eight-plus innings on 105 pitches, 72 strikes, with seven strikeouts and a lone walk in the longest start of his career, the previous high being just 5.2 innings.
The tying two runs went against his ERA, however, when hard-throwing right-hander Mike Morrison couldn’t hold the lead, allowing Fox and pinch runner Tyler Cascadden to score on a fielder’s choice and sac fly, respectively. That tied the game at 2-2, and gave West Virginia a chance to pull ahead when Wood snapped a 1-for-28 start to the season with a double down the leftfield line to put runners at second and third. But Ray Guerrini chopped a comebacker to Morrison, who threw to first to end the threat and send the game into the bottom of the ninth.
Ross Vance, nearly matching Cunningham pitch for pitch, worked into the ninth, and also took a no decision when he was pulled after 8.2 innings having allowed the two earned runs. The junkballing left-hander had eight strikeouts with one walk while throwing 114 pitches, 72 for strikes. Reliever Blake Smith came in to get the final out in the ninth inning and force the game to additional frames.
Coastal then threatened in the 10th inning, loading the bases with two outs before Casey Schroeder’s slow-rolling grounder was fielded by second baseman Shaun Corso, whose throw barely beat the runner for the final out to send the game to the 11th inning. Both teams plated a run in the 12th, WVU on Taylor Munden’s single to right field to score Wood. CCU scored on a fielding error on Corso, followed by a sac bunt and a single to center. That set the Chanticleers (6-2) up with two on and one out after a walk before Dotson registered a pair of strikeouts to end the inning.
It was a crushing defeat for a team that had started the season so impressively, going to then-No. 24 Clemson and taking two of three with an excellent pitching performance. The Mountaineers figured to struggle on the mound, but remain in most games because of their offense. But that ideal has been turned on its head recently, as the staff held multiple foes in check only to have the line-up falter, especially the top half. When the Mountaineers finally broke through to tie the game at 2-2 in the ninth, they had been held scoreless for 19 of the previous 20 innings, including the 5-2 loss earlier in the day to Kent State.
Against Coastal Carolina, WVU’s starting line-up combined to go 7-for-42, a .166 average. The Mountaineers had just eight hits in 46 at-bats overall, with 11 strikeouts. Munden and leftfielder Kyle Davis had two hits apiece. West Virginia has scored five runs over the last 25 innings. CCU tallied nine hits, including three by Young. His game-winner was his second home run of the season.
Coastal Carolina entered having won three in a row over Georgia Tech, Albany and NC State by a combined 31-8. West Virginia’s next two games in the Chanticleer Classic will be against Ball State on Sat., Feb. 28 at 3 p.m. and against Illinois on Sun., March 1 at 1:30 p.m. Both of those games will be played at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark, home of the Class A-Advanced club of the Chicago Cubs.