MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Chance Gilmore hit two home runs, Jim Birmingham pitched six strong innings, and 12th-ranked Coastal Carolina took advantage of a couple of NC State defensive lapses Sunday to end the Wolfpack’s quest for an unbeaten season, downing the Pack 6-3 in the final game of the Baseball at the Beach tournament.
The win over NC State concluded a most impressive weekend for the Chanticleers, who should move into the national top 10 with a four-game sweep over impressive competition. Coastal, now 7-1, defeated James Madison, the preseason favorites to win the Colonial Athletic Association, 11-7 on Friday, then swept third-ranked UC-Irvine 7-3 and 13-6 on Saturday before handing the Wolfpack its first loss of the season.
NC State, on the other hand, entered the season with a young team and many unanswered questions, several of which have been answered in a positive manner. Now 6-1 on the season and off to its best start in three years, the Wolfpack thus far has shown itself to be a competitive team that holds its own against top-quality competition. NC State opened the weekend with a 7-4 victory over UC-Irvine, then pinned a 6-2 loss on JMU. And the Wolfpack trailed the Chanticleers by just a run heading into the bottom of the seventh inning Sunday.
Birmingham, making his second start for Coastal, and Wolfpack starter Jake Buchanan dominated the first five innings of the game. Buchanan allowed just two runs, one earned, on two hits in that time, while Birmingham allowed one run total on five hits through five.
Gilmore led off the bottom of the third for the Chanticleers with a solo homer to right field. Rich Witten followed with a grounder to shortstop, but Chris Diaz was unable to come up with the ball cleanly and was charged with an error. Josh Conway sacrificed Witten to second base and Rico Noel drove him home with a double off the wall in left.
Dallas Poulk drew a one-out walk in the top of the fifth, went to second when Diaz chopped a groundout to shortstop, and then scored on Kyle Wilson’s single up the middle. That trimmed the Coastal Carolina lead to 2-1.
The Chanticleers finally got Buchanan out of the game in the bottom of the sixth. Rico Noel led off with a single up the middle and Scott Woodward walked. Noel and Woodward pulled off a double steal to advance to second and third. With one down, Tommy La Stella singled through the right side of the drawn-in infield to drive in Noel and advnace Woodward to third. A wild pitch brought Woodward home, and Buchanan was pulled after retiring Jose Iglesias on a fly ball to right field. Freshman righthander Chris Overman came in and got Adam Rice on a fly ball to shallow center field to end the inning. Buchanan (1-1) pitched well enough to win, but took the loss after allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and fanned four.
Birmingham (2-0) left the game after six complete innings, and while it would be inaccurate to say the Wolfpack celebrated the occasion, it would be quite fair to say the Pack was not disappointed to see him leave. The Coastal lefthander worked the Wolfpack over for six innings, allowing just one run on seven hits. He walked one, struck out three, and allowed just four runners to reach scoring position.
Ryan Connolly followed Birmingham to the mound and did not fare quite so well. Chris Schaeffer hit a hot grounder that almost undressed Woodward at third base before rolling down the line and into foul ground. Schaeffer wound up at second with a double, and then strolled home when Dallas Poulk hit a home run off the facing of the batting cages beyond the right-field wall, cutting the lead to 4-3. Keith Hessler was quickly summoned from the Chanticleers bullpen, and he restored order, getting pinch-hitter John Gianis and Andrew Ciencin on groundouts, and Drew Poulk on an inning-ending fly ball to center.
Gilmore led off the bottom of the seventh with his second homer of the day and his third of the season to extend Coastal’s lead to 5-3.
Danny Canela led off the top of the eighth for NC State and doubled the opposite way into the left-field corner. Pratt Maynard hit a one-out single through the right side of the infield to put runners on first and third. Coastal brought in closer Austin Fleet at that point, and he got out of the ining by inducing Schaeffer to hit into an inning-ending double play. Fleet picked up the save with 1 2/3 innings of shutout relief.
Coastal added a two-out insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. La Stella was hit by a pitch, and Jose Iglesias doubled into the left-center-field gap.
NC State will return to action Wednesday at home against UNC Greensboro.