Baseball tops Coastal Carolina for first time since 2002

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Alex Winfree

wwinfree2@radford.edu

The Highlanders stand in second place in North Division with one month left 

After being swept by High Point last weekend and taking a mid-week loss to James Madison University, Radford bounced back over the weekend to take a 2-1 series win over Coastal Carolina University.

Friday night’s series opener on April 19 was the definition of a nail biter. Both teams were scoreless going into the bottom of the eighth before a thunderstorm halted play until Saturday.

Redshirt sophomore Tyler Costello pitched spot on spreading out seven hits in seven innings pitched.  He did not allow a run. Sophomore pitcher Jeff Maxwell relieved him when the game resumed Saturday. Maxwell worked just over three innings of scoreless relief. Freshman pitcher Daniel Bridgeman came in with two outs in the bottom of the 11th and was able to get the Highs out of a bases loaded jam.

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Michael Costello entered the game with one out in the bottom of the 14th and got a lineout and groundout to get RU out of the inning.

Radford could not score a run in the top of the 15th as Costello retired the first two Coastal batters in the bottom of the inning.  It looked like the Highs were on their way to another at-bat and chance to win, but Coastal’s Ted Blackman delivered a walk-off homerun to give Coastal a narrow 1-0 victory.

Game two was just as close. Coastal kicked off the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Kemp misplayed a grounder with two outs and a man on third ran in to give Coastal a 1-0 lead.

In the top of the fourth, RU head coach Joe Raccuia decided to call a delayed double steal to get the first run of the game. With two outs, Kemp on first and sophomore second baseman Josh Gardiner on third, Raccuia drew the play and it worked to perfection with Kemp stealing second safely and Gardiner scoring RU’s first run.

Coastal got the run back in the bottom of the fourth. Josh Powell walked and later scored on Luke Willis’ RBI triple.

 Coastal held a 2-1 lead until the top of the seventh. Senior first baseman Ryan Burgess led off the inning with a single and redshirt freshman infielder Zach Woolcock followed with a single of his own to advance Burgess to second. Redshirt freshman outfielder Brad Keen came in to pinch run for Burgess and freshman outfielder Shane Johnsonbaugh laid down a sacrifice bunt, but instead beat it out for an infield single.

Junior outfielder Blake Sipe tied the game at two with a bases loaded walk. Freshman infielder Chris Coia then gave RU the 3-2 lead with an RBI groundout.

The Highlanders picked up an insurance run in the top of the ninth. Sophomore third baseman Hunter Higgerson led off with a walk and Sipe followed with a bunt single. After a sacrifice bunt, Coia once again delivered an RBI groundout to give RU a 4-2 lead.

Costello entered in the bottom of the ninth to secure the save for RU.  He gave up a pinch-hit RBI single to Will Remillard, but was able to secure his seventh save of the year for a 4-3 RU victory.

Radford took the final game of the series 5-2.  Both teams remained scoreless until the top of the fifth. Junior catcher Josh Reavis led off the inning with a walk and sophomore outfielder Patrick Marshall singled up the middle advancing Reavis to second.     Another sacrifice bunt put Reavis in position to score on a wild pitch to give RU a 1-0 lead. Burgess also drove in a run in the inning with a groundout to first.

Coastal got one run back in the bottom of the fifth to make it 2-1.  Brian Pruett drove in Chris Suseck with a base hit down the left field line.

Gardiner reached first on an error to start the seventh. Reavis followed up with a single and Marshall brought home Gardiner with a bunt single to make it 3-1. Burgess delivered the decisive blow to CCU with a two-run single down the left field.

CCU scored their last run of the game in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single by Anthony Marks. Maxwell got a double play and a groundout in the bottom of the ninth to secure the 5-2 victory and earn his second save of the season.

Radford got a solid start from senior pitcher Keith Fritz, who recorded his second win of the year. Fritz threw six innings, allowing seven hits on two runs. He walked two and struck out one. Burgess led the offensive attack.  Despite going just 1-4, he picked up three RBI.

This was the first series win over Coastal since 2002. CCU stands in first place in the South Division and is still a heavy favorite to win the conference tournament at the end of the season.

The team currently sits at 22-16 overall and 9-6 in conference play. RU is in second place in the North Division behind Campbell University who is 14-4 in Big South games.

The Highlanders will look for another win Saturday, April 27 as they travel to College of Charleston for a three game series. The first pitch is set for 4:00 p.m.