The West Virginia baseball team came into today’s match-up with the 2019 National Champion Coastal Carolina Chanticleers hoping to continue an undefeated showing at the 2022 iteration of the Baseball At The Beach tournament. The tournament host, the Chanticleers entered Springs Brooks Stadium sitting at 2-1 after a 2-1 loss to Kent State yesterday.
Five batters into the first inning, West Virginia had two outs and Nathan Blasick and Victor Scott on base. At the perfect moment, freshman Grant Hussey stepped up to bat and drilled a ball over the right field wall. Just minutes after the game began, the Mountaineers were already on an offensive pedestal at 3-0.
— WVU Baseball (@WVUBaseball) February 21, 2022
That early leg-up was about to come crashing down when the Chants took the field. WVU’s right-handed, fifth-year starter Zach Bravo was nearly out of the inning when a routine fly out to Victor Scott at the warning track slipped from his glove. CCU’s Eric Brown ended at second and sent Nick Lucky home for the Chanticleers’ first score of the game. The next batter up, Christopher Rowan, capitalized on his at-bat with a single through the infield to left center. Brown scored from second to close the scoring gap to 3-2.
When the second inning began, WVU’s redshirt junior shortstop Tevin Tucker saw the opportunity to make his way home from second on a fielding error to add a fourth run. Bravo neutralized the Chanticleers when his time came, and the remainder of the second and third went by without incident.
Bravo stayed in for the fourth inning, but his time on the bump was about to expire. Coastal’s Matt McDermott singled to left field and added a duo of RBIs when WVU’s infield missed crucial connections. McDermott moved to first, Cooper Weiss moved to third, and Kameron Guangorena and Rowan scored to boost Coastal Carolina even with West Virginia at four.
Bravo stayed in following a mound visit and McDermott’s movements were followed by Austin White pumping a sac fly to right field and send Weiss in from third for the go-ahead run. Down 5-4, WVU head coach Randy Mazey replaced Bravo with senior lefty Beau Lowery to get out of the inning. Help came quickly, when sophomore second baseman Mikey Kluska fielded a pop-up from CCU junior Dale Thomas to narrowly escape.
The Chanticleers added insult to injury in the fifth, when Rowan skyed a ball over Scott’s head at center to score Brown and boost Coastal up 7-4. Lowery was pulled off the mound in favor of righty fifth-year Chase Smith to open the sixth.
Finally it felt, the tides was turning back in the Mountaineers’ favor. With runners on the corners and Dayne Leonard up to bat, CCU’s Jonathan Blackwell, a native of Charleston, W.Va., hit Leonard on the elbow and loaded the bases with gold and blue. He was promptly pulled after 1.0 innings pitched and righty Darin Horn was sent to face a loaded field. With Tucker up, Horn bobbled the ball and sent him walking to first after a 3-1 count; Smith melodramatically walked home for the Mountaineers’ seventh score. Down 7-5 now, WVU veteran right fielder Austin Davis popped a sac fly to left field and brought Kluska home from third to cut the deficit to 7-6.
Mazey activated his pinch runners in the top of the seventh. Sophomore catcher McGwire Holbrook earned a single and was quickly replaced on the base path by fellow sophomore Ben Abernathy. Hussey flew out to center field to advance Abernathy to third and heads-up baseball ensued. A wild pitch had WVU third base coach Steve Sabins waving his arms and Abernathy took the opportunity to slide home and even the score at seven.
Now tied, Coastal went on the defensive, swapping Horn for righty Jacob Maton and ending WVU’s chances of advancing. Mazey added a pitching change of his own, sending junior righty Jacob Watters in for Smith after 1.2 innings pitched. Watters proved his worth with a 1-2-3, post-stretch inning.
Heading into the eighth tied at seven, the Mountaineer and Chanticleer faithfuls were waiting for something interesting to happen. That moment came in the bottom of the eighth, when, with one out, CCU’s Austin White slapped together a two-RBI base hit to put runners on the corners. He was thrown out at first the next batter, which gave the Mountaineers enough momentum to close the remaining out, but the damage had been done.
After base path action in the top of the ninth, WVU had runners at first and second, but a questionable out by home plate ump Gary Smetana caused Mazey to jump from his position in the first base dugout with some choice words. Smetana ejected him with the tying run on first base, and the Mountaineers eventually relinquished the potential victory 9-7 and added the season’s first loss. Watters was credited with the loss, while Maton earned the win for Coastal Carolina.
West Virginia will now look ahead to Friday, when the team travels to Charlotte to play the 49ers at 4 p.m. at Mariam Hayes Stadium. That game will be on ESPN+.