MYRTLE BEACH -- The College of Charleston's dream season ended in abrupt disappointment Monday in the NCAA Myrtle Beach Regional when No. 4-ranked Coastal Carolina scored the deciding run on a wild pitch in the 10th inning and scored an 11-10 victory over the Cougars at BB&T Coastal Field.
The win propelled the Chanticleers (55-8) into this weekend's Super Regional against South Carolina, a best-of-three series that will be played at BB&T Coastal Field and will send one team to the College World Series. The College of Charleston, which beat Coastal in three out of five meetings this season but not the all important final two games, ended its year at 44-19.
Tied going into the bottom of the ninth, Charleston managed to load the bases with two outs. Joey Bergman chopped a ball that bounced off pitcher Cody Wheeler's glove, but shortstop Taylor Motter barehanded the ball and made a great throw. Umpire Steve Mattingly called Bergman out on the bang-bang play. Cougars first base coach Chris Powell reacted by slamming his helmet to the ground, resulting in an immediate ejection by Mattingly, who the night before ejected College of Charleston coach Monte Lee from the game.
"It was a close call. I thought I was safe. Not only that, I thought he was pretty far off the base. But he called it how he saw it," Bergman said.
Wheeler said his heart dropped when the ball caromed off his glove, but he credited Motter with a great play. And Coastal first baseman Rich Witten insisted the throw was on time and his foot was on the bag.
Lee, who had to monitor by computer and radio from the team bus because of his ejection Sunday, said he has plenty of respect for umpires.
"Sometimes they make the right call, sometimes they make the wrong call, sometimes it's a play that can go either way," Lee said. "It's just baseball. It's what makes baseball great. You're just an inch away sometimes from victory or defeat."
The Chanticleers scored what proved to be the winning run in the 10th when Witten led off with a double, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and trotted across the plate when relief pitcher Heath Hembree uncorked a wild pitch.
Charleston's Cole Rakar led off the bottom of the 10th with a single up the middle and reached second when Matt Leeds drew a one-out walk. But Jose Rodriguez flied out and Greg Blake struck out to end the game.
"He made one bad pitch," Lee said. "Heath is a power arm, a power pitcher. He comes to try and throw it as hard as he can over the plate. One got away. That tends to happen sometimes when you have a power pitcher's mindset."
The regional final lived up to its billing, with plenty of runs and plenty of firepower. The Chanticleers scored two runs to open the first, with Sunday's hero Rico Noel, who ended up being the regional MVP, hitting a triple to center and scoring on a grounder. Jose Iglesias also homered in the first.
But Charleston answered in its half of the first when Bergman was hit by a pitch and Rakar, who went was 4 for 5 with 6 RBIs and two homers, hit a towering shot over the left-field bleachers.
The Chants added two more runs in the third on three hits, including a double, and a stolen base.
Charleston regained the lead at 6-4 with a four-run third, getting five hits.
Coastal loaded the bases in the sixth inning and Witten hit a grand slam to put the Chanticleers ahead 8-6, but the scoring was far from over.
Charleston tied it with a pair of runs in the seventh, with Rakar hitting his second homer of the game and Rob Kral following that with another solo homer.
Coastal took a brief lead with a two-run eighth, but Charleston answered with a pair of runs to set up a thrilling finish.
Coastal coach Gary Gilmore said no team has played and challenged Coastal Carolina this season as much as the College of Charleston.
"How they fought in these two games is indicative of how they fought us in the regular season," Gilmore said.
Lee said he was proud of his players.
"To fight the way they did against an awfully good ballclub and against a tough (regional) field...You have to give Coastal Carolina a lot of credit," Lee said. "We fought them tooth and nail, toe to toe. It just didn't work out there at the end. But I'm awfully proud of my players.
"We had our chance to win. But you've got to give Coastal Carolina credit. They're one of the best teams in the country for a reason. They did a great job today, coming from behind the way they did."