Chants drop Big South opener to Gardner-Webb

Courtesy: CCU Media Relations

MYRTLE BEACH – Coastal Carolina sophomore Ben Smith struck out a career-high 12 through seven innings – one shy of the school record – but Gardner-Webb scored three in the eighth inning and two in the ninth off the Chanticleer bullpen to claim a 6-3 victory Friday night at Field at Pelicans Ballpark.

Gardner-Webb improves to 13-8-1 overall and 2-2 in the Big South, while Coastal drops to 11-11 and 0-1 in league play. The loss ended a streak of 14 consecutive wins in league openers for the Chants, dating back to 1999, and a streak of 15 consecutive home conference openers, dating back to 1998.

Smith started the game by striking out the side and he struck out two over the next two innings. He ran into trouble in the fifth as Gardner-Webb scratched the scoreboard first. Sam Fulginiti hit a one-out, seeing-eye single in the top of the fifth and, with two outs, Scott Johnson, Ryan Hodge and JJ Nazzaro drew consecutive walks, the last forcing in a run. Smith struck out Henry Rundio to limit the damage in the fifth to start a streak of six straight strikeouts over the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

Coastal Carolina and Gardner-Webb are set to play game two of the series Saturday at 6 pm.