LEXINGTON, Va. - In a battle between two of the top left-handed starters in the Big South Conference, Coastal Carolina's Cody Wheeler outlasted VMI's Jason Farley, as the seventh-ranked Chanticleers hung on for a 3-2 victory Saturday afternoon at Gray-Minor Stadium. Coastal Carolina's 15th consecutive win improves them to 35-5 overall and 13-0 in the Big South, while VMI falls to 29-11 on the season and 10-7 in league play.
Wheeler improved to 7-0 with the win, allowing just two first-inning runs on five hits in 7.2 innings. The Spotsylvania, Va. native struck out seven and walked only one, but did plunk a pair of Keydets. Farley, meanwhile, fell to 4-2 with the loss, allowing three runs, two earned, on four hits in 6.1 innings.
The Chanticleers scored their unearned run in the first inning, when Rico Noel reached on a fielding error and scored on a Jose Iglesias groundout. The Keydets took a 2-1 lead in the bottom half of the inning, as Sam Roberts walked then scored on Jordan Ballard's sacrifice fly, followed by a solo home run by Graham Sullivan.
Wheeler and Farley traded zeroes for the next four innings, thanks to several standout defensive plays. The visitors pulled even in the sixth on Taylor Motter's one-out home run, then rallied in the seventh. In the inning, Iglesias drew a leadoff walk and Tommy La Stella dropped down a sacrifice bunt. Adam Rice followed with a single into right field, putting runners at the corners with one out. Keydet reliever Michael Devine was brought in to face Daniel Bowman, who looped a single into shallow left-center field to score Iglesias with the go-ahead run.
The Keydets mounted a rally of their own in the ninth, putting runners at first and third with one out thanks to singles from Sullivan and Haitsuka. That chased reliever Ryan Connolly from the contest in favor of Matt Laney, who induced a game-ending double play to pick up his second save. On the play, VMI pinch-hitter Rob Dickinson grounded out to first base, as defensive replacement Rich Witten stepped on the bag and fired to Motter at second, who tagged out Haitsuka.
No Chanticleer had more than a single hit in the contest, with Motter's blast as the only extra-base knock. Igleisas and Motter each had a run and an RBI, while Bowman plated the other run. For the Keydets, Sullivan and Haitsuka each went 2 for 4, with Ballard and Sullivan collecting the RBIs.
The teams conclude the series Sunday afternoon, with first pitch at Gray-Minor Stadium set for 2 p.m. Fans can watch the game on the Big South Network, available at www.BigSouthSports.com, or listen to the game on the VMI Sports Network, available online at www.VMIKeydets.com and on Lexington's 3WZ 96.7 FM.