BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Coastal Carolina pitcher Alex Cunningham's long road back from elbow surgery now includes a memorable performance in a landmark victory for the feisty Chanticleers.
Cunningham limited LSU to two runs over 7 1/3 innings, Michael Paez drove home the deciding run with a walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth, and Coastal Carolina advanced to the College World Series for the first time with a 4-3 victory over NCAA super regional host LSU on Sunday night.
"This is one of the few times in my life that I'm at a loss for words," Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. "I just felt like it was destiny for us."
Reliever Bobby Holmes worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the eighth with the Chanticleers (49-16) clinging to a 3-2 lead. LSU tied it in the ninth because of two fielding errors, but Holmes prevented further damage after LSU again loaded the bases.
"We wiggled out of about every jam that you could wiggle out of in the two days we were here," Gilmore said.
G.K. Young had two hits, a run batted in and run scored for the Chanticleers, who swept the best-of-three series. Anthony Marks walked and stole second in the ninth before scoring the winning run against Tigers closer Hunter Newman, who was charged with his first loss this season.
LSU (45-21), the No. 8 national seed, outhit Coastal Carolina 10-7, but stranded 12 baserunners, 10 in scoring position.
After giving up two runs in a mistake-filled first inning, LSU starter Jared Poche posted 4 1/3 shutout innings before being relieved by Parker Bugg with one out in the sixth and the Tigers down 2-1.
Kevin Woodall Jr. lined a single to center off Bugg to plate Young, who'd singled to lead off the inning and took second on Billy Cooke's sacrifice bunt.
Playing as the visitor in Game 2, LSU pulled to 3-2 on Antoine Duplantis' two-out, run scoring double in the top of the seventh.
LSU was in its 12th super regional since the current format for deciding College World Series berths was adopted in 1999. The Tigers had won seven of the previous 11, but their losses included a stunning upset at home in 2012 by Stony Brook.
Now they've been knocked off at home again by Coastal Carolina, which came to Baton Rouge after outlasting regional host North Carolina State.
PURPOSEFUL PITCHING: Cunningham was not overpowering. He gave up all 10 of LSU's hits and only struck out one. But he only walked one while constantly working ahead in the count and getting timely outs. The performance is the latest highlight of a comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery that wiped out his 2014 season. His 2015 campaign also was cut short by tendinitis in his throwing arm, but he has been able to come back strong in this most historic of seasons for Coastal Carolina.
"That elbow surgery honestly was a blessing in disguise. I took for granted how much I love baseball and how much the game really means to me," Cunningham said.
HODLING IT TOGETHER: The Chanticleers appeared to be letting their nerves get the best of them in the ninth. Second baseman Cameron Pearcey, a substitute for injured starter Seth Lancaster, made an errant throw to first on a leadoff grounder by Cole Freeman. Freeman took second on a wild pitch and Duplantis walked, setting up Jake Fraley's sacrifice bunt attempt.
Fraley reached base when Pearcey, who was covering first, was unable to hold onto the throw as Fraley collided with him, and Freeman scored the tying run as the ball rolled away.
But Holmes (6-2), was able to retire Kramer Robertson when the pitcher snagged a sharp grounder back up the middle and elected to get the easier out at first, while runners advanced to second and third.
"Kramer crushed that ball and somehow their pitcher stabbed it," LSU coach Paul Mainieiri said. "I wish he would have gone for the double-play; we would have gotten the go-ahead run across."
Holmes then intentionally walked slugger Greg Deichmann before striking out pinch hitter Brody Wofford and inducing an inning-ending fly out by Beau Jordan.
DEFENSIVE MISCUES: Coastal Carolina leadoff hitter Anthony Marks scored the first run with aggressive baserunning and help from LSU. Marks' grounder between first and second was ruled a single when Poche was slow to cover first. Marks then took second on a deep sacrifice fly to left center, then took third and home on a pair of wild pitches. Connor Owings, who walked later in the inning and advanced to second on the wild pitch that scored Marks, then came home on Young's single.
"There's nothing more frustrating to me than when we play poor fundamentals, because obviously the coach is responsible," Mainieri said.
AIR TIME: Cunningham induced LSU to swing early in the count and under his pitches. The Chanticleers made 13 putouts on balls LSU hit in the air during the 7 1/3 innings Cunningham was on the mound.
"I have a pretty high fastball spin rate, so you're going to get some weak contact in the air," Cunningham said. "We thought there were some holes up in the zone with some of their hitters. I threw a lot of changeups on those fly balls, just keeping the hitters off balance."
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Posted on Mon, June 13, 2016
by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer