No. 7 Coastal Carolina baseball falls to Louisiana in first semifinal game

(AJ Henderson/Sun Belt Conference)
Published: May. 27, 2023 at 5:39 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The No. 7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers had their season-high winning streak snapped at nine consecutive wins, as the top-seeded Chanticleers fell to the No. 4-seeded Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns 7-3 in the semifinals of the 2023 Guardian Credit Union Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship Tournament on Saturday afternoon in Montgomery, Ala.

The Chanticleers (39-18) and Cajuns (39-18) will turn around and play again in an elimination game for both teams at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET.

The loss snapped the Chants’ season-long winning streak at nine-straight wins and handed the Ragin’ Cajuns their second win over CCU this season. Louisiana and Clemson are the only two teams this year to hold two wins over the Chants.

The Coastal offense tallied 11 base hits for the game but stranded 10 runners on base in the loss.

CCU super senior Nick Lucky (3-for-4) and freshman Jake Books (3-for-4, 2B, run) each had a team-high three base hits, while freshman Blake Barthol (1-for-4, 2B, 2 RBIs) and senior Graham Brown (1-for-5, HR, RBI, run) were the lone Chants to record an RBI.

Louisiana’s offense had two big innings, as the Ragin’ Cajuns plated four runs in the fifth and three more in the eighth frame in the win.

The Cajuns hit .500 (7-for-14) with runners on base and an even better .714 (5-for-7) with runners in scoring position for the game.

LA first baseman CJ Willis (2-for-4, HR, 2 RBIs, 2 runs) hit a two-run home run in the eighth, while lead-off hitter and third baseman Max Marusak (1-for-4, 2B, BB, 2 RBIs, run) had a two-run double in the fifth.

The loss fell to reliever Darin Horn (3-2), as the righty entered the game in the fifth inning with one runner on base. Over his 4.2 innings on the mound, Horn gave up four runs on six hits, one walk, and four strikeouts while throwing 72 pitches.

The win went to Louisiana relief pitcher Jerry Couch (2-1), as he held the Chants’ offense to just two hits and stuck out one over 1.1 innings out of the bullpen.

In fact, the LA bullpen fired 6.1-scoreless frames, highlighted by 4.0-scoreless innings from left-handed pitcher Blake Marshall (5), who picked up his fifth save of the season.

Coastal took an early 1-0 lead to start the contest, as Brown hit a solo home run into the trees behind the wall in left field in the bottom of the first inning. The home run was his 14th of the season and the team’s 100th of the year.

The Chanticleers added to their lead in the next at-bat, as Barthol lined a two-out, two-run double down the right-field line to push the home team in Teal in front 3-0 after just two innings of play.

After the Chants stranded two runners on base in both the third and fourth innings, it was the Ragin’ Cajuns that struck next in the top of the fifth.

CCU starting pitcher Jack Billings held the Cajuns’ to just two hits over the first four innings, only to see Louisiana break out with back-to-back singles, including an RBI single by Will Veillon, followed by back-to-back doubles from Marusak and Kyle DeBarge to put the visitors in black on top for the first time in the game at 4-3 midway through the fifth inning.

The Chanticleers looked to get the run back with a Lucky single in the fifth and a double by Books in the sixth, yet left both runners stranded to trail 4-3 after six innings played.

Following the four-run fifth inning by the Cajuns, CCU’s Horn settled in and threw a 1-2-3 sixth inning and pitched around a base hit in the seventh frame to keep the score at 4-3 in favor of the Ragin’ Cajuns.

However, Louisiana recorded back-to-back two-out doubles from Heath Hood and John Taylor, and then got a two-run home run from Willis to deep right field to blow the game open and put the Cajuns on top 7-3 midway through the eighth inning.