MOUNT PLEASANT — UNC Wilmington’s Evan Phillips did something that few pitchers have been able to do to the College of Charleston — silence the Cougar bats.
Phillips threw 62/3 strong innings and pinch hitter Andy Austin’s RBI bloop single to right lifted the Seahawks past the Cougars, 4-3, in 10 innings in the second round of the Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Tournament on Friday at Patriots Point.
With the victory, the Seahawks (38-16) advanced to the “championship” round Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Cougars (42-12) will face Delaware, a 7-3 winner over Northeastern on Friday, at 9:30 a.m. Saturday for the right to take on UNC Wilmington. The winner of the College of Charleston-Delaware game will have to beat UNC Wilimington twice to win the CAA title. Since no team is allowed to play three games in one day, should the College of Charleston-Delaware winner beat UNCW on Saturday, an if necessary game will be played Sunday.
The Cougars have been one of the nation’s top hitting teams all season. Going into the tournament the Cougars ranked fifth in team batting average (.315) and were third in home runs (67).
Phillips seemed like an unlikely candidate to shut down the Cougar bats with an ERA of 5.77 entering the game in 11 starts this season. But the 6-2 junior did a masterful job of mixing up his pitches and frustrating the Cougar hitters for six-plus innings.
“We just felt like that Evan was the best match-up we had against the College of Charleston and he proved it,” said UNCW coach Mark Scalf. “He’s been throwing the ball extremely well the last two weekends.”
Phillips allowed just two hits, two runs and struck out eight batters in 100 pitches.
“To be honest, I had everything work today,” Phillips said. “It was about competing and winning each pitch. Charleston is one of the best hitting teams we’ve ever faced.”
College of Charleston coach Monte Lee said Phillips pitched like a professional on Friday.
“Good pitching always beats good hitting and Phillips was outstanding for them today,” Lee said. “He did a really good job of locating his pitches. He didn’t give us many good pitches to hit today. We got a little frustrated because he was executing his pitches so well. He didn’t make any mistakes up in the zone. He pitched like a guy who can pitch at the next level.”
Lee said the Cougars were just simply outplayed by the Seahawks throughout the game. The Cougars committed three uncharacteristic errors and were out-hit by a 12-3 margin.
“They out-pitched us, they out-hit and they were better defensively,” Lee said. “They won all three phases of the game and they deserved to win. The better team won today. Got to give them credit.”
Cougars starter Brandon Glazer had an excellent outing, scattering six hits and allowing just one run over seven innings.
“Brandon had a great performance, he gave us a chance to win the game,” Lee said.
In a back-and-forth affair that featured twists and turns from both sides, UNCW capitalized on a Cougars miscue in the 10th.
Corey Dick drew a one-out walk and moved up to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, a fielding error on Terence Connelly’s grounder to third put runners on the corners. That set the stage for Austin, whose blooped a single into short right-center to score Dick.
“I hit it in the Bermuda Triangle,” Austin said. “Somehow it found a hole out there.”
Seahawks senior closer Jordan Ramsey (8-2) retired the Cougars in order in the bottom of the 10th to earn the victory. Ramsey gave up one hit and an unearned run over the final 3.2 frames.
The Seahawks broke up the scoreless pitcher’s duel as designated hitter Luke Dunlap led off with a double into the corner in right and scored on a two-out double into the right-center gap by shortstop Kennard McDowell.
After cruising through the first six innings, Phillips’ left the game after back-to-back walks to Erven Roper and Tommy Richter with one out in the seventh. Ramsey looked like he would escape the jam, but a fielding error on a Ryan Brown grounder allowed Roper to score the tying run. Outfielder Alex Pastorius followed with a two-run single to right that put the Cougars ahead, 3-1.
UNCW battled back to tie the game in the top of the eighth. Zach Shields singled to left to open the frame and came around to score on after Gavin Stupienski doubled to right and the ball was mishandled. With two out, Dunlap singled to right-center and pinch runner Daniel Stack beat the throw to the plate to even the contest at 3-3.