No. 7/8 Chants take another Sun Belt series over App State

(Bob McCool / CCU Athletics)
Published: May. 7, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT
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CONWAY, S.C. – True freshman Jake Books blasted his first career home run, a grand slam, and drove in a career-high five RBIs, while sophomore pitcher Darin Horn fired 5.1 strong innings out of the bullpen to lead the No. 7/8 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers to an 11-4 series-finale win over Appalachian State on Sunday afternoon at Springs Brooks Stadium.

With the win, the Chanticleers have yet to drop a weekend series this season and extended their Sun Belt Conference series winning streak to 14 consecutive weekends since being swept at home by Georgia State on April 8-10, 2022, last year.

The Chants improved to 14-3 all-time versus App State on the baseball diamond with the win and have won each of the five conference series meetings since joining the league prior to the 2017 season.

Having suffered a loss to the Mountaineers on Friday night in the series opener, Coastal won back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday to keep the string intact of not having lost to the same team more than once this season. CCU’s 16 losses have come to 16 different teams.

CCU pushed across 11 runs in Sunday’s win, marking the 23rd time this season that the offense has posted double-digit runs in a game. Over those 23 games, the Chants are 23-0.

With three home runs in the win, including the grand slam by Books, the Chants improved to 24-4 when hitting two or more home runs in a game on the season.

Making just his second career start in left field, Books (2-for-4, GS, 5 RBIs, run) led the Chants with two base hits and a career-high five RBIs. The other five RBIs in the win came from five different players in Nick Lucky (1-for-2, HR, 2 BB, RBI, 2 runs, SB), Derek Bender (1-for-4, BB, RBI, 2 runs, SB), Zack Beach (1-for-3, SF, BB, RBI, run), Blake Barthol (1-for-4, 2B, RBI), and Ty Dooley (1-for-3, HR, RBI, run).

Book’s grand slam was the seventh for the Chanticleers as a team this season.

The Mountaineers’ offense recorded just seven hits for the contest, once again led by lead-off hitter CJ Boyd (2-for-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBIs, run) and his three RBIs, while designated hitter Alex Reed (1-for-3, 3B, HBP, RBI) added an RBI triple in the loss.

Horn (3-1) picked up the win for the Chants, throwing a strong 5.1 innings out of the bullpen. The sophomore entered the game in the third inning and proceeded to hold App State to just one run on three hits, two walks, one hit batter, and five strikeouts before handing the ball over to his teammates in the ninth.

App State starting pitcher Caleb Cross (4-3) was handed the loss, as the righty struggled with his control from the start, giving up eight runs, seven of which were earned, on four hits, five walks, and two strikeouts over 3.1 innings on the mound.

Coming off the 10-inning walk-off win on Saturday, the Chanticleers struck first in the bottom of the first inning on two walks, a catcher’s interference, and a sacrifice fly to left field from Beach to go up 1-0 early.

After App State fought back to take the lead 3-1 on an RBI triple in the second inning and a two-run home run in the top of the third, the Chanticleers used a big inning in the bottom of the third frame to pull back in front at 6-3 on a bases-loaded RBI walk to Bender and a grand slam over the boardwalk in right field by Books. The home run was the first of his career.

However, Coastal was unable to get a shutdown inning in the top of the fourth, as back-to-back one-out hits drove in a run for the visiting Mountaineers to cut the home team’s lead to two at 6-4 midway through the fourth inning.

The Men in Teal quickly answered back with three more runs in the next half inning, as Dooley led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo home run to left field, his fourth home run of the season.

Two batters later, Lucky added a solo home run of his own, this one a monster shot over the 20-foot batter’s eye in straightaway center field, his 12th dinger of the season, to push the Chants’ lead to 8-4.

CCU added to the lead with a little help from the App State defense, as Bender picked up a two-out single to keep the inning alive. The sophomore quickly stole second base and motored all the way around to score on the errant throw from the catcher into center field to push the advantage out to 9-4 with five innings to play.

Horn struck out two hitters in the fifth, got help from a 6-4-3 double play in the sixth, and threw back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth frames to strand just one App State runner over the four innings.

Meanwhile, the offense added two insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh inning on an RBI single from Books and a run-scoring double by Barthol to put the home team on top 11-4.

The Coastal duo of Davis Tyndall and Levi Huesman needed just five pitches to get three outs in the top of the ninth inning to seal the Sunday win.

Both teams stranded seven runners on base for the game, while defensively, the Chants did not commit an error and turned two double plays.

The Chants (30-16, 17-7 Sun Belt) are scheduled for two midweek games next week, starting on the road at The Citadel on Tuesday, May 9, before returning home to host Clemson on Wednesday, May 10.