Coastal Carolina won its seventh season opener in a row besting the James Madison University Dukes 7-1 on Friday night before an overflow crowd at home. The Chanticleers looked pretty impressive, especially for a “rebuilding” year – a year with 20 newcomers on the roster and five in the starting lineup. That being said, I think that’s a good place to start our look at game one.
1. Ted Blackman, LF
2. Jacob May, CF
3. Rich Witten, 3B
4. Sloan Gilliam, 1B
5. Daniel Bowman, RF
6. Bryce Dial, DH
7. Tucker Frawley, C
8. Justin Creel, 2B
9. Bryan Pruett, SS
That’s right, Senior Rich Witten at third base. Although he started at first base last year and hasn’t played third since high school, Coach Gary Gilmore moved Witten. This is perhaps the best example of how difficult it must be for him to adjust his roster.
On the other hand, it appears that Gilmore’s decisions on some positions were easy. Senior Daniel Bowman returned to right field and Tucker Frawley is still the starting catcher. As expected, Jacob May moved from left field to center. Newcomers filled the remaining positions, including true freshman Bryan Pruett at shortstop.
Designated hitter Bryce Dial hit a one-out single in the bottom of the second inning. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and came home on Tucker Frawley’s RBI single. Coastal loaded the bases with a walk and a hit-by-pitch but an intervening fly out and a strikeout ended the inning.
The Dukes tied it up in the fourth inning. Sophomore Connor Brown singled to third base to get it started. Two ground outs moved him to third. Fellow infielder junior Bradley Shaban singled him home. Senior Ian Haynes grounded out to end the inning with one left on base.
Coastal had nine batters in the fifth inning, scoring four more runs. Jacob May doubled with one out. Witten walked. They advanced on steals and May went home on a throwing error. Witten scored on an RBI single by red shirt junior Sloan Gilliam. Dial tripled to right center scoring Gilliam. Frawley walked and there were Chanticleers on the corners but not for long. Relief pitcher Michael Howerton erred in a pickoff throw to first sending Dial home and Frawley to second. Coastal would get another walk but a fly out to center would end the inning, leaving two Chants on base.
Coastal scored its final two runs in the sixth. Ted Blackman singled to lead off the inning. He moved to second when May walked on four straight balls. Blackman moved to third with Witten’s fly out to left field. JMU freshman pitcher Chris Huffman was called for a balk moving May to second and scoring Blackman. May scored the final Chanticleer run on an error.
Defensive Changes and Mixing it Up:
With a 7-1 lead, Gilmore started making some changes in the top of the seventh. He moved Witten back to first and brought in freshman Chris Suseck to play third. Keith Picconi pinch hit for Justin Creel in the bottom half of the inning. In the eighth Adam Eggnatz replaced Blackman and Luke Willis came in for May. Josh Powell replaced Frawley behind the plate in the ninth.
Sophomore Tyler Herb started on the hill for the Chants and went seven innings. He gave up seven hits, one run but not one walk. That’s a huge difference from last year. In his freshman season, Herb was slotted as a starter but he struggled and only started two games. If tonight is any indication of what he can do for this team, he has gone a long way towards solidifying his role in the starting rotation.
Freshman Chris Harrison, from White Knoll High School in Lexington SC, came on in the eighth. He didn’t appear to show any problems from his Tommy John surgery. He closed out the game giving up four hits and recording two Ks. He didn’t issue a walk either. Of his 31 pitches, 24 were for strikes.
Although he gave up three hits in the eighth, I thought he showed good composure getting the batter to fly out with an 0-2 count and the bases loaded. That ended the inning with three Dukes left onboard. If he stays healthy, he could make a great contribution to this team.
The Defense – no errors
Bryce Dial – 2 hits, including a triple and 2 runs
Jacob May – 2 runs and a stolen base