Just as it was for Coastal Carolina in a momentous win over Florida in its College World Series opener, the margin for error was slim Tuesday night as the Chanticleers took on TCU in the winners matchup on their side of the bracket.
And unfortunately for the Chants, they weren’t so crisp this time.
TCU took the lead on a second-inning solo home run from surging slugger Luken Baker and then took advantage of a costly Coastal Carolina error to launch a two-run fifth while gaining some separation on the way to a 6-1 win over the Chants before a crowd of 22,704 at TD Ameritrade Park.
After defeating the top-seeded Gators, 2-1, on Sunday while showing they weren’t just content to be making their first-ever appearance on this stage, the Chants (50-17) now move to 1-1 in the College World Series and will play Texas Tech (47-19) in an elimination game Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
The Horned Frogs (49-16), who are making their third straight College World Series appearance, will await the winner on Friday night and will have to be beaten twice by whichever that team is to keep them from advancing to the best-of-three final series against the winner from the other bracket.
The game was plenty competitive for a while Tuesday night, but Coastal Carolina simply didn’t have the offense to overcome its miscues.
Junior right-hander Alex Cunningham gave the Chants a strong start allowing just that solo home run to Baker through four innings, but the top of the fifth got off to an ominous start as Josh Watson singled through the left side and senior third baseman Zach Remillard then threw the ball in the dirt toward second while trying to start a double play on a grounder from Dane Steinhagen.
That gave the Horned Frogs runners on first and third, they quickly loaded the bases with a walk to Ryan Merrill and after the first out added to their lead on a four-pitch walk to Austen Wade.
Just like that, Cunningham was out of the game as the Chants went to the bullpen to call on Bobby Holmes.
With the bases still loaded and one out – a similarly pivotal situation to one the sophomore reliever faced at Louisiana State in the NCAA super regionals – Holmes got Cam Warner to hit a groundball that Remillard nabbed on a diving stop to his left and threw to second. It would have been a poetic ending to the inning for Remillard to start a double play there, but Warner beat the throw to first as another run scored.
It stayed a 3-0 game when Kevin Woodall Jr. made a nice lunging stop down the first base line, but the Chants weren’t out of trouble for long.
In the top of the sixth Baker and Elliott Barzilli led off with back-to-back singles and Watson drew a walk to load the bases again. Holmes got Steinhagen to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, but another run scored in the process to make it 4-0.
Again, the Chants minimized damage as Woodall made another nice play at right ranging to his right and tossing to Holmes to end the inning, but they faced a significant deficit they wouldn’t make much of a dent in the rest of the way.
Because perhaps the bigger problem for Coastal Carolina on Tuesday night is that the offense continued to scuffle.
The Chants had runners on first and third with two outs in the third when Michael Paez was caught stealing at second to end the frame. Anthony Marks had taken off for home when the throw went to second and if Paez had gotten in a rundown Marks might well have scored, but that’s not how it played out.
G.K. Young would later be left stranded on second after a two-out double in the fourth as TCU starter Brian Howard picked up three of his seven strikeouts in that inning.
Coastal Carolina finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth, sparked by a leadoff double from Paez who came into score on a two-out RBI single to center by Young.
A walk to Billy Cooke spelled the end of Howard’s night as the 6-foot-9 righty left after 5 2/3 innings, having allowed six hits, three walks and one run with those seven strikeouts.
Reliever Ryan Burnett got Tyler Chadwick to fly out to left to end the threat in the sixth and would go on to retire all 10 batters he faced to close it out after TCU added two runs in the top of the ninth.
Cunningham (9-4) took the loss, allowing three runs – only one earned – in 4 1/3 innings, while allowing four hits, two walks and striking out three.
Paez and Young each went 2-for-4 for the Chants offensively.
Howard improved to 10-2 with the win for TCU.
Check back for a full recap and reaction.