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Coastal Carolina and Troy Notch Key Sun Belt Series Wins

Coastal Carolina made the trek north to Norfolk, Virginia to face Old Dominion for a Sun Belt Conference matchup this weekend in a series that had the potential for a lot of runs to be scored. When the dust settled on Sunday afternoon, one team scored twice as many runs as the other as only one offense really hit on all cylinders during the series. The picture in the Sun Belt continues to be close, and every weekend matters for the top teams.

An offensive free-for-all seemed likely when the third batter of the opening game, Caden Bodine, hit a two-out home run to left field to give Coastal the early lead. The Chanticleers added two runs to their tally in the second inning.

Coastal took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the third inning. At that point the Monarchs put five runs on the board led by back-to-back home runs by Chris Dengler (2-for-3) and Luke Waters then a two-run home run to left field by Alex Bouche, his eighth home run of the season and the third of the inning as the Monarchs took the lead.

Neither starting pitcher made it past the fifth inning on Friday.

John Holobetz (2-1) was quite good in relief for Old Dominion. Holobetz tossed three scoreless innings with four strikeouts and earned the win for his effort. Robert Cook earned his third save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning in preserving the 8-5 victory in the opener.

Coastal roared back in Saturday’s middle game to take a 15-2 victory.

The game seemed like it could be a close matchup of undefeated starters. Sam Armstrong took the mound for Old Dominion with a record of 6-0 this season. Jacob Morrison was 4-0 going into the middle game of the series needing a great performance in order to give Coastal a shot at taking the series.

Scoreless into the third inning, Graham Brown got the scoring started with his ninth home run of the season, a solo blast good for an early 1-0 Chanticleers lead.

The game was tied at one in the top of the fifth before Orlando Pena hit a solo home run. Bodine hit his second home run of the season in the sixth inning. Zach Beach added a three-run home run later in the inning and Coastal was on their way to victory with a 6-1 lead.

An eight-run ninth inning by the Chanticleers was started when Derek Bender hit a three-run home run the opposite way over the right field wall. Five more runs crossed the plate in the inning as Coastal continued to put the ball in play and took advantage of free baserunners.

Morrison remained perfect on the season as he improved his record to 5-0 after the win with seven strong innings where he scattered four hits and allowed no earned runs. Morrison added eight strikeouts to a dominant performance.

The 15-2 Coastal win set up a deciding game on Sunday afternoon. And the contest between two power squads turned into a classic duel.

Tied at one going to the third inning. Chris Dengler hit a solo home run over the wall in center field in the bottom of the inning for a 2-1 Old Dominion lead. Coastal came right back and tied the game at two in the top of the fourth inning when a runner on third scored on an attempted stolen base between first and second base that lasted just long enough for the tying run to score.

That was the last run to score in the game until the tenth inning.

In the top of the tenth inning, with the game still tied at two, the Chanticleers got solo home runs from Ty Dooley and Graham Brown to take a 4-2 lead that held up as the final score.

Reliever Teddy Sharkey pitched the final 3 2/3 innings for Coastal and was superb. Sharkey allowed just one hit and struck out six batters while keeping the Monarchs from scoring. With the win for his effort, Sharkey improved his record to 4-0 in 2023.

In one of the cruel ironies of baseball, Coastal actually outscored Old Dominion 24-12 in the three-game series, but the Chanticleers only walk away with a series win, rather than a sweep for such a one-sided weekend.

Elsewhere in the Sunbelt, the Troy Trojans (25-12) traveled to Lafayette to face the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana (25-12). Troy promptly took the first two games of the series 9-6 and 6-2. But, Louisiana salvaged the Sunday game with a phenomenal 2-1 game in which Louisiana led 1-0 for most of the game. All three of the Sunday runs scored were via solo home runs. The finale featured only nine total hits and eleven runners left on base between the two teams.

The series win on the road against a quality conference opponent was vital for Coastal Carolina (23-11 overall) who stands alone atop the conference standings at 11-4. Louisiana and Southern Miss are tied for the second spot in the conference with 10-5 records. Old Dominion and Texas State round out the top five, both tied with 9-6 conference records. The best teams at the top of the Sun Belt Conference promise to deliver a great finish down the stretch.


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