No. 7 Coastal Carolina falls to Louisiana in elimination game

(AJ Henderson/Sun Belt Conference)
Published: May. 28, 2023 at 10:52 AM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The No. 7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were held to just one run on four hits as the No. 4-seeded Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns completed the doubleheader sweep with a 4-1 win over the Chanticleers in an elimination game at the 2023 Guardian Credit Union Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship Tournament on Saturday in Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery, Ala.

The Chanticleers (39-19) will now wait and see where they will play for the 2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Regionals. The selection show is on Monday, May 29, at noon ET and will air on ESPN2 or the Watch/ESPN app.

Coupled with the 7-3 loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns earlier in the day, the Chanticleers have lost two consecutive games for the first time since the beginning of May with back-to-back losses to Charlotte and App State on May 2 and May 5.

For the fourth consecutive game, the Coastal pitching staff pitched well, as the trio of Will Smith, Bryce Shaffer, and Teddy Sharkey held Louisiana to four runs on six hits and three walks and struck out 10 Cajun hitters.

Smith (4-2) was saddled with the loss, as the redshirt junior gave up just two runs on three hits and struck out four over 2.2 innings of work in only his second career start.

However, Louisiana’s pitching staff was up for the challenge, as the trio of Jackson Nezuh, Blake Marshall, and JT Etheridge kept the Chanticleers’ offense at bay with just one run on four base hits.

Marshall (3-1), who threw 4.0-scoreless innings to pick up the save in the win earlier in the day for the Ragin’ Cajuns, carried over his stellar performance with 5.1-scoreless frames in the nightcap to pick up the win. The left-handed hurler surrendered just two hits, walked three, and struck out five CCU hitters while throwing a season-high 84 pitches in the game-two victory.

Picking up the save was Etheridge (2), as he got the last two outs of the game in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on base.

CCU’s offense had just four hits, two of which came from the nine-hole hitter in shortstop Ty Dooley (2-for-3, run). Super senior Nick Lucky (1-for-3, 2B, BB, RBI) had an RBI double, while third baseman Blake Barthol (1-for-4, SB) added a base hit and a stolen base.

Overall, the Chants hit .133 (4-for-30), .100 (1-for-10) with two outs, and .250 (3-for-12) with runners on base. CCU was 0-for-5 (.000) at the plate with runners in scoring position for the game.

Louisiana’s offense, which hit .429 (3-for-7) with runners on base and .333 (2-for-6) with runners in scoring position, picked up a home run from Carson Roccaforte (1-for-4, HR, RBI, run), two RBIs from John Taylor (1-for-3, 2 RBIs), and another RBI from Kyle DeBarge (0-for-3, SF, RBI).

Riding the momentum from the win earlier in the day over the Chanticleers, the Ragin’ Cajuns took an early 1-0 lead with a solo home run from Roccaforte with two outs in the top of the first inning.

Coastal got the run back in the top of the third inning, as Dooley laced a single to center field and scored two batters later on a double off the right-center field wall from Lucky to tie the game up at 1-1 midway through the third inning.

However, the Chanticleers were unable to get a shutdown inning as the Cajuns retook the lead with a double, a single, and a sacrifice fly to pull back out in front by one at 2-1 heading into the fourth inning of play.

After going down in order in the fourth and fifth innings, the Chants put a runner on base in the top of the sixth inning on a one-out walk but saw the next two hitters hit fly balls to the outfield to end the frame with the Ragin’ Cajuns still in front at 2-1.

CCU’s Shaffer was able to keep the Chants in the game, as he entered the contest in the third inning with one runner on and two outs and got a strikeout to end the frame. He then pitched around two walks in the fourth and threw a 1-2-3 fifth frame to keep the Chants in striking distance at 2-1.

Following two quick outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Cajuns got a two-out single and a walk to keep the inning alive for Taylor, who hit a ball off the wall in left field to drive in the two runners and extend the Louisiana lead to 4-1.

After both teams went down in order in the seventh inning, the Chants threatened in the top of the eighth with a lead-off walk and single to put two runners on base with no outs. However, a 4-6-3 double play and a hard-hit ball back to the pitcher ended the inning with the Cajuns escaping the inning with no damage done and the 4-1 lead still intact.

The Chanticleers brought the tying run to the plate twice in the ninth, but saw a lazy line drive to the shortstop and a ground out up the middle end the game with the Ragin’ Cajuns on top 4-1.