The No. 7 seeded Liberty Flames’ run in the 2016 Big South Baseball Championship came to an end, falling to the No. 1 seeded Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, 1-0, in the conference’s title game, Saturday afternoon at Lexington County Baseball Stadium. The contest was the lowest scoring in Big South Championship Title game history.
The Flames, who were making their eighth appearance in the Big South Championship game in program history, had become the first team in the 15-year history of the eight-team tournament format to win its first three games to advance to the title game with a win over No. 8 seed Radford, 11-10, Friday.
Trailing 1-0 in the ninth, Liberty rallied by moving the tying run into scoring position against Big South Tournament MVP, Coastal Carolina reliever Mike Morrison. With one out, right fielder Will Shepherd, who was named to the 2016 Big South All-Tournament team, singled and advanced into scoring position at second on a walk to first baseman Andrew Yacyk. But, Morrison was able to get shortstop Dalton Britt to ground to Chanticleers’ first baseman Tyler Chadwick, who made an outstanding play, starting a game-ending double play to seal the Coastal Carolina win.
Liberty freshman right-hander Jack DeGroat followed up his effort in Liberty’s 6-1 win over No. 2 seed High Point, Tuesday, with another strong performance. The right-hander went the distance in the tightly-contested game, finishing the year with a 4-4 record. DeGroat, who was named to the Big South All-Tournament team, gave up one run on three hits over eight innings, the longest outing of his career. He struck out six and walked two.
Liberty finishes its season with a 31-28 record. The Flames entered the game having won five straight games and winning nine out of their last 11 games to end the season. Liberty has reached the Big South Championship game for the fifth time in Head Coach Jim Toman’s nine seasons.
In their last season as a member of the Big South, Coastal Carolina wins its 14th Big South Baseball Championship. The nationally-ranked Chanticleers move to 44-15 and now await the announcement of the 2016 NCAA Tournament field, Monday.
DeGroat and Coastal Carolina freshman right-hander Jason Bilous locked in a pitchers’ duel through the first five innings, with the Chanticleers plating the only run of the game in third inning.
With two out and the bases empty, shortstop Michael Paez lined his 14th home run of the season over the left field wall to give the No. 1 seed a 1-0 edge.
Held without a hit by Bilous through the first four innings, the Flames mounted a scoring threat in the fifth. Britt led off the inning with a single back through the middle of the diamond and moved into scoring position at second base on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Andrew Kowalo. Designated hitter Payton Scarbrough followed with a single to left field on which Britt tried to score, only to be thrown out at home plate by Coastal Carolina left fielder Anthony Marks to preserve the Chanticleers’ 1-0 advantage.
Coastal Carolina’s Bilous moves to 3-1 on the year. The right-hander did not allow a run over a season-high 5 1/3-plus innings. The freshman allowed three hits. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
Morrison earns his eighth save of the year. The right-hander allowed two hits over the final 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walk one. Morrison recorded a victory and two saves during the Big South Tournament.
Liberty outhit Coastal Carolina, 4-3. The Flames committed one error.
Flames third baseman/pitcher Eric Grabowski joined Shepherd and DeGroat on the all-tournament team, as the utility player.
Britt completes his playing career by playing in a Liberty record 339 career games.