CONWAY, S.C. - Jeremy Brown scattered nine hits over seven strong innings, but the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers scored two unearned runs in the first inning and held on for a 3-2 win over the VMI Keydets Friday night in Big South baseball action in Conway, S.C.
With one out and one on in the first inning, Coastal's Daniel Bowman hit a hard ground ball to second base. At the last moment, the ball hopped off the chest of second baseman Drew Bryan and caromed away for an error. Singles by Rich Witten and Tucker Frawley scored one run, and Bowman scored on a sacrifice fly by Ted Blackman, putting Coastal (22-11, 5-2 Big South) up 2-0 after half an inning.
The Chanticleers then added a run in the second, before VMI (11-23, 4-9) struck for two in the fourth. A Cameron Walter RBI single and a fielder's choice RBI from Bryan cut the deficit to one, and capped the scoring despite several rallies from both sides over the remainder of the contest.
Brown (0-5) took the hard-luck loss for the Keydets, allowing just one earned run over his seven innings of work. He struck out a season-high eight and walked just one, while Big South Preseason Pitcher of the Year Josh Conway ran his record to 4-1 with the win. Conway struck out 10 over seven innings, and surrendered two runs on five hits. Aaron Burke allowed just one baserunner over the final two frames to notch his sixth save.
After Coastal's first inning rally, the home team then added its final run of the night in the second. Shortstop Brian Pruett led off with a double to left, and three batters later, Bowman blooped a single to shallow center, scoring Pruett and making it a 3-0 contest.
The Keydets threatened in the third against Conway. With two outs, Matt Winn walked and Rob Dickinson singled to right, advancing the Keydet catcher to third base. George Piccirilli then walked to load the bases, but Eric Mayers grounded to shortstop to end the would-be rally.
VMI then got on the board in the fourth, when Jacob Morley led off with a single. With Morley running, Berkley Hawkins then hit a line drive up the middle that deflected off Conway and into short left field for a hit that sent Morley all the way to third base. One out later, and with Hawkins running, Walter looped a single to right field on a perfectly executed hit and run to score Morley. Bryan was the next hitter and he hit a bouncer to third baseman Tripp Martin for a possible double play. Walter, however, slid hard into second base, forcing a low, bouncing throw from second baseman Justin Creel on the relay to first, and Bryan was safe on the fielder's choice to make it 3-2, Coastal.
The Chanticleers put runners on second and third with two outs in their fourth, but Brown induced Witten to ground out to end that threat. From there, both starters settled in, as Conway faced the minimum over the next three frames, and Brown allowed just two singles during that time. With the score still 3-2, Rob Dickinson led off the eighth with a single against reliever Austin Kerr. That brought Burke out of the bullpen to face Piccirilli, who bunted the ball foul on an 0-2 count, striking out for the first. Dickinson was then caught stealing, and Mayers grounded out to end the frame.
Coastal then threatened in the bottom half, as Frawley led off with a single against Reed Garrett. A sacrifice bunt moved him to second base, and Tripp Martin walked to put two runners aboard, but Pruett bounced into the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning, and send the game to the ninth.
Morley led off the inning with by walking on a 3-2 pitch, but Hawkins hit a bouncing ball to first base. Witten had been holding Morley on first, so the Coastal first baseman fielded the ball, stepped on the bag and threw to second. Pruett's tag on Morley was in time to complete the double play, and Gary LeClair struck out to end the game, giving Coastal the narrow 3-2 win.
Frawley led the way for the Chanticleers, going 3 for 4 with an RBI, while Dickinson and Morley had two hits apiece for the visiting Keydets.
VMI baseball will return to action Saturday, continuing its series at Coastal Carolina. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m.