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Coastal Carolina shatters records in winning second straight Sun Belt title

(Coastal Carolina University)

Playing with its back to the wall since dropping its tournament opener to UT-Arlington on Wednesday, Coastal Carolina clinched its second straight Sun Belt Conference tournament championship with a dramatic 9-7 come-from-behind victory over second-seeded Georgia Southern (35-24) yesterday afternoon at Spring Brooks Stadium in Conway, S.C.

It was the Chanticleers fifth consecutive tournament victory in four days. Coastal Carolina erupted for 36 runs on Saturday in routing UL-Monroe 10-6 and 26-10 to advance to Sunday’s championship game.

The Chants, who crushed three or more home runs in four of their last five games, shattered the tournament’s all-time record for runs scored by tallying 80 runs in six games. The previous mark was held by Florida International, which scored 61 runs during the 2010 conference tournament.

Trailing 6-0 in yesterday’s contest, Coastal Carolina sliced into Georgia Southern’s lead with three runs in the top of the fourth and added another in the fifth before exploding for four more in the sixth on a three-run blast over the left-centerfield wall by senior outfielder Kieton Rivers, which tied the game at 7-7, and then grabbed the lead a few batters later on an RBI-double by catcher Kyle Skeels, a redshirt junior from Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

Coastal Carolina added an insurance run in the seventh on a solo home run by shortstop Scott McKeon.

Rivers, who was 2-for-5 at the plate, hit two home runs and had four RBIs in yesterday’s victory while teammate Skeels was 3-for-4 at the plate.

In addition to their eighty runs, the eighteen home runs belted by CCU in the five-day tournament set a new Sun Belt tournament record.

Coastal Carolina, which finished with a 15-13 record in the Sun Belt Conference during the regular season and an overall mark of 35-24-1, captured the College World Series in 2016 by defeating Arizona in two-out-of-three games in the best-of-three championship series. CCU was in its final year of membership in the Big South Conference — a conference it had belonged to since 1983 — when it won the national championship.

In clinching the Sun Belt’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, this will be longtime head coach Gary Gilmore’s sixteenth regional appearance since taking over the baseball program in 1996.

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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