May 26, 2007

Big South Championship

Nick McCully throws so hard it's tough to believe more people don't hammer him for bus-ticket homers, but he gets the job done and surprise! Coastal wins the Big South. Been a fun week, folks, so I'm checking out, bound for South Carolina and an NCAA Regional next week.

Big South Championship

After cutting the deficit to one, Liberty walks leadoff man Adam Vrable in the bottom of the eighth. David Sappelt successfully sacrifices Vrable to second and Dom Duggan fouls out to third. With two outs, Chris Raber doesn't run out a check-swing, where he probably would have reached, and is chewed by the first-base coach all the way back to the dugout.

Three outs to go for Coastal.

Big South Championship

Cody Brown leads off the Liberty eighth with a double and Coastal immediately goes to Pete Andrelczyk, who replaces Travis Risser. Risser threw three innings and that was his first hit. Andrelczyk doesn't last long and closer Nick McCully is called on to get the last four outs.

The Flames get a run across and it's 6-5 Coastal, Liberty stranding two more runners when Andrelczyk gives up a double and a four-pitch walk after getting the first two outs. Let's see if Liberty's bullpen can keep the Chanticleers off the scoreboard so they'll have a shot in the ninth.

Big South Championship

Dom Duggan continues to play Monster Mash, hammering a 1-1 leadoff homer well over the wall in left for Coastal's first lead of the day. Give some props to Libery left fielder P.K. Keller, who made a leap for it although it was about three interstates and a dirt road away from the wall.

Tim John is out after a solid performance, throwing six innings and giving up seven hits and five runs (three earned). Dustin Umberger's in to try and control the damage ... the Flames are only down 6-4 and have two innings to play.

Tommy Baldridge just got another hit. He's 9-of-17 for the tournament.

Can we start calling him "Hacksaw" Dom Duggan?

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Big South Championship

Tim John has done a masterful job of getting out of the last two innings, solving Coastal on 15 combined throws. In the sixth, however, he gives up a leadoff single and eight-hole hitter Tyler Bortnick, for the second straight day, deposits the pill in the lights behind left field. Coastal hits into an inning-ending double play, but we're tied 4-4 after six.

Big South Championship

Tommy Baldridge gets a two-out double but Tim John gets out of the mess, still holding a 4-2 Liberty lead. Coastal coach Gary Gilmore was shaking his head after Dom Duggan popped out to third on a first pitch and Chris Raber went down swinging in maybe the worst at-bat of his career.

Big South Championship

Andy DeLaGarza's history after giving up an RBI double to Garrett "Curly Sue" Young, in favor of Travis Risser. DeLaGarza leaves with nine hits and four runs, a walk and zero Ks. The kid started the year 8-0 but had three no-decisions, two losses and a win down the stretch.

Liberty up 4-2 as we go to the bottom of five, Tim John getting out of the last inning with seven pitches. He's still up to 79, though, but there's nobody warming up.

Big South Championship

Coastal adds one in the third and it's tied 2-2. DeLaGarza seems to have settled in, still getting hit but not giving up runs. Tim John is looking good but his pitch count is up to 72 and Liberty doesn't have many fresh arms.

Joe Marion is calling strikes with the maximum amount of flexing. If this keeps up, his shirt will rip from the constant strain and leave him looking like the Incredible Hulk (TV, not movie). This guy could stop a Sherman tank in its tracks just by scowling at it from 500 yards. He introduces himself in social situations by saying, "Joe Marion. Bow down or I will EAT YOUR FACE."

And ...

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Big South Championship

I've just been informed that Liberty's Garrett Young is being heavily scouted by the Braves. And why not? Former Brave Sid Bream came from Liberty and he's a legend.

Then I see Young remove his helmet. He looks like Screech, only blond. That has got to go before you hit the big time, son. Your hair reminds me of Ronald McDonald with bleach.

Big South Championship

Big South Player of the Year David Sappelt shoots a flare into left and Tyler Bortnick scores, making Liberty's second error of the game hurt. 2-1 Liberty after two.

For the 10th time, the PA guy is congratulating Winthrop's softball team and Coastal Carolina's golf team for their postseason successes. We've already heard it. The softball team is done. Coastal's golf team doesn't play again for another week. GIVE IT A REST.

Perhaps I should ask Joe Marion to take care of this problem. He could pull the words out of the air, chew them and turn them into a Shakespearean soliloquy to the delight of the crowd.

Big South Championship

David Giammaresi tees off on Andy DeLaGarza and rockets a 3-1 meatball into the magnolia tree behind right-center. Giammaresi must be confused ... he's only supposed to hit homers (three of his four on the season) against Winthrop's pitching.

2-0 Liberty, going to the bottom of the second.

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Big South Championship

Coastal goes quietly in the bottom of the first and still trails 1-0 to Liberty. The Chants have been behind every game in the tournament and have won every game in their tournament.

Plate umpire Joe Marion, no lie, could beat Chuck Amato as the biggest chest in America. He has no need for a chest protector under his shirt. There's also no arguments with this guy ... you'd throw it right down the pipe, he'd say "ball one," and you'd just say, "Thank you, sir," and move on.

Big South Championship

The announcer just reminded everybody that videotaping the Big South championship is prohibited. Who the hell would be sick enough to post a bootleg Liberty-Coastal Carolina video on Amazon, and who would be sicker enough to buy it?!?

Liberty takes a 1-0 lead when Andy DeLaGarza has some early wildness. He gives up three singles and a walk and isn't getting the corners called. He gets Phil John to pop up to center on a bases-loaded, full-count situation but the Flames draw first blood.

Big South Championship

There's maybe 50 people here ... and at least 42 of them are wearing Coastal's teal and black. The parents and sister of Coastal's Tommy Baldridge are over along the third-base line, greeting him with a loud war whoop whenever his name is called.

Liberty had Coastal swept in Conwa earlier this year but gave away the last two games. Let's see if the Flames can pull off the impossible today ... first pitch is about 10 minutes away with Tim John (who lost to Winthrop two days ago) on the mound.

Big South Championship

Liberty has to win two today to win the Big South title and an automatic pass to the NCAA tournament. Not to say they're already done, but today is expected to complete what was already pre-ordained ... a coronation of Coastal Carolina as the best team in the conference.

Coastal would be in the tournament anyway with two losses, but I doubt they're going to just lay down. With Andy DeLaGarza set to pitch today, the Chanticleers can probably ice a host site for the NCAAs.

DeLaGarza is so good he only goes by three letters. When you hear "DLG" mentioned, you know there's fixin to be some bad stuff going down. Coastal's missing out on a marketing bonanza.

May 25, 2007

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

A bad day all around for the Eagles ... 11-0 Liberty, final. Flames advance to meet Coastal for the title.

Eagles ... we'll see you next year.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Liberty adds two in the ninth, one on a monster home run by Patrick Gaillard, and takes an 11-0 lead. Winthrop has three outs to rally.

I'm not holding out much hope.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

We head to the ninth, Liberty up 9-0. Unless there's a monumental upset in the works, Coastal Carolina will play the Flames for the title at 1 p.m. tomorrow, needing two losses to be eliminated.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

9-0 Liberty, going into teh bottom of the eighth. Winthrop has six more outs and the Flames have a night to figure out who the hell's going to pitch tomorrow.

An interesting note: Liberty traveled to Coastal Carolina about a month ago and took the first game. The Flames had the next two won but blew a 13-1 lead in the first and a ninth-inning, two-run lead in the second. Of course, then, they had their starting pitchers available.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

The Flames have added three more runs when a potential groundout is just enough room for the runner to score ... made a definite proposition by the normally sure-handed Chris Carrara bobbling the ball and losing the groundout. When it rains, it pours, and Winthrop is about to go lose its second straight today and end the season 33-27. Another error and a two-run single have done the damage.

Methinks the NCAA selection committee won't be calling come Monday.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

David Giammaresi parks a two-run shot over the wall and Liberty leads 6-0 through six. Stat of the day — Giammaresi has three homers this year, all against Winthrop.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Patrick Gaillard singles into center to drive in another run and it's 4-0 Liberty in the sixth. Winthrop has gotten the leadoff man on three times and gotten nothing out of it, and the way Michael Solbach is throwing, the Eagles are almost out of chances.

Heckler alert — some jerk on the first-base stands is screaming Mike Honce's name over and over. Some rather large gentlemen ... I believe they play for the Carolina Speed arena football team ... are walking over.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Liberty's still in top 3-0 as Michael Solbach is busting BBs past the Eagles' offnse. We're through four here in Rock Hill, and the home crowd isn't looking to happy.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Liberty's making the pitching change hurt, rapping Mike Honce for a single and then P.K. Keller drilling a double to the right-field wall. Two runs score on the double but Keller comes around second too hard, gets hung up and tagged out.

Your standard 3-5-6-7 tag out.

3-0 Liberty, bottom of the third.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Winthrop's Brett Moore leaves after two innings, a 1-0 deficit and a leadoff walk and single in the third. Mike Honce is in, pitching and DHing, to try and hold Liberty to one run.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Liberty breaks the scoreless streak with a run in the second, Cody Brown singling just past a diving Chris Carrara at second and then Patrick Gaillard getting beaned. Nate Thompson then continues Winthrop's woes with the third-base line, lashing a double into the corner to score a run.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Winthrop's out of the first after, you guessed it, a double play! From slugger Tommy Lentz, no less. That makes it six in one day for the vaunted Eagles' offense, which is picking the worst time of the year to have its quietest day.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Brett Moore toes the rubber and burns a fastball past Kenneth Negron for strike one, and we're underway at The Winthrop Ballpark. Moore strikes out Negron, walks Phil John and then gets Garrett Young to hit into a double play.

I just peered down in the Winthrop dugout and saw a big "P" on the wall in athletic tape. I don't know what the hell that's all about.

Big South Game 9 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Winthrop and Liberty playing for the right to get hammered tomorrow. Looks like the Flames may go with Michael Solbach and the Eagles will go with Brett Moore.

Not many fans have shown up ... I'm thinking that little nine-run pounding Coastal put on Winthrop may have had something to do with it. Plus, Northwestern High School, (Go Trojans!) is graduating right across the street and it looks like the whole town is there. Now would be a good time for arch-rival Rock Hill High to go over and loot the gym.

How does one mix CD follow Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" with Will Smith's "Summertime"? Surely, such a breach of good music will draw a stiff punishment.

First pitch looking like 8 p.m.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

Trailing 13-4 and facing an elimination game right after this one, Winthrop comes into the ninth full of pep, gets a one-out single and hits into its FIFTH double play.

The Eagles now get an hour break while a fresh Liberty team pulls up to do battle. The winner gets to be served up to Coastal tomorrow, needing to win two to claim the title.

And the Chants will probably start Andy DeLaGarza, their No. 1 starter until a week ago.

Strong chance of a thorough embarassment.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

Winthrop has just grounded into its fourth double play of the afternoon and surprisingly, trails 12-4. Coastal gears up for yet another tournament championship and the Eagles will take on Liberty at 8 p.m.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

The Eagles notch a run in the sixth but go quietly in the seventh, leaving it 10-4 Coastal. Liberty has just pulled in the parking lot and looks ready for its elimination game tonight, which could wind up being the perfect revenge situation against Winthrop.

The Eagles are sticking with Owen Reid on the hill, and he's looked decent except for the three-run bomb that Tyler Bortnick dropped. I'm guessing Winthrop would start Brett Moore against the Flames tonight, assuming Coastal doesn't choke, because Moore threw six perfect innings against Liberty two weeks ago ... and then the bullpen blew it.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

Coastal's Tyler Bortnick blasts a three-run tonk to extreme left and the Chanticleers lead 10-3 after five innings. Looks like Winthrop is preparing for another game tonight and the Chants will get some rest.

A good chance the streak will continue ... the host team hasn't won the Big South tournament since 1992.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

We're through four with Coastal still holding a 7-3 lead. Owen Reid has done well after his initial inning, although it may be a case of the Chanticleers knowing they can score any time they want, so why try?

Coastal's John Mariotti was warned by umpire Ritchie Tallent for arguing balls and strikes and coach Gary Gilmore came out for a few choice words. Mariotti was calmed down by first baseman Chris Raber, who talked him down while standing behind him.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

Needing to score some runs and get some momentum after giving up seven runs, Winthrop is out of the next frame on six (six!) pitches. Considering leadoff man Billy Froehlich had no chance of hitting a grand slam, you'd think he could anchor the bat on his shoulder instead of swinging at the first pitch.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

Yeah ... strike that whole "Josh McDonald is ready to pitch" line from the last post.

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Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

This time, it's Coastal third baseman Derek Martin who screws up, pulling a Bill Buckner on a ground ball to third. The Eagles add another run on the boot before Mike Honce gets caught stealing, called out because batter John Murrian interfered with the throw.

Then Coastal shorstop Tyler Bortnick throws too low to first trying to nail Murrian (that's three errors in two innings for the Chants), Chris Carrara singles and Phil Carey lifts an RBI single into left. Eagles are up 3-0 and none of the runs are earned.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

Winthrop's Josh McDonald looks up to the challenge in his first inning, retiring the Chanticleers 1-2-3 with two strikeouts and a pop to left. He's hitting the corners really well, his four-seamer diving into lefty batters' knees. 1-0 Throp after one.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

Tommy Lentz dribbles one in front of the plate with Chris Carrara on second and Coastal pitcher John Mariotti picks it up. He throws too low to first, giving Carrara a free pass home and Lentz second base. The Eagles are out after that with a 1-0 lead, going to the bottom of the first, but this is classic Chanticleers baseball ... around the fourth inning or so, they discover, "OH ... we're playing today."

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

John Mariotti is toeing the rubber and preparing to fire his first pitch to Winthrop's Chris "Goose" Carrara, the school's all-time hit leader. Here's the pitch ... Carrara takes a low fastball for strike one.

Big South Game 8 ... Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina

Coastal makes the change, switching John Mariotti in to pitch and leaving lefty Andy DeLaGarza for later. Winthrop is going to counter with righty Josh McDonald, who transferred in from South Carolina two years ago but fractured the tip of his elbow last season and missed the stretch run.

Winthrop really needs to win this game, considering its starting pitching is down to its bottom three guys. Win today, and the Eagles relax and can come back with No. 1 gun Alex Wilson for the title on Saturday. Lose, and they've got to go to the bullpen for three straight wins, not to mention playing a doubleheader today.

We're about 40 minutes from game time ... time for some Bojangle's!

Big South Game 7 ... UNC Asheville vs. Liberty

UNCA notches two in the top of the ninth ... while the Goodyear blimp circles overhead, apparently in town for the Coca-Cola 600. That's all the Bulldogs can get and Liberty advances to tonight's game with a 12-8 victory.

A special thank-you to Jim Bob, who inspired countless posts and wisecracks. What a guy.

We sit and wait for Coastal and Winthrop in the winners' bracket while "Beat It" plays on the PA. Yeah, I know Michael Jackson's a demented freak, but "Thriller" was one hell of an album.

Big South Game 7 ... UNC Asheville vs. Liberty

Liberty notches two more in the seventh, one in the eighth, and takes a 12-6 lead ... UNCA fan Jim Bob has shut up because a devastatingly beautiful girl is braiding the mullet.

Big South Game 7 ... Liberty vs. UNC Asheville

Liberty notches another run in the bottom of the sixth and leads 9-6 with three innings to go. The Flames' pitching seems to be holding up, but they'll have to go to another starter tonight should this continue. Plus, they'll be playing either Winthrop or Coastal Carolina, who will no doubt be P.O.'ed that they just lost a game that could have put them in the championship.

Jim Bob is still hollering but a couple of campus policemen have stationed themselves a few rows away. Jim Bob, great American that he is, is paying no attention to them.

Big South Game 7 ... Liberty vs. UNC Asheville

Liberty erases that solo homer from the top of the fifth by equaling it in the bottom. The Flames' Garrett Young reaches on an error and P.K. Keller, continuing a big day, drives him in with a shot up the middle.

8-6 Flames through five.

Big South Game 7 ... Liberty vs. UNC Asheville

Justin Schumer parks a solo homer over the Big South champion signs on Winthrop's right-field wall and it's 7-6 Liberty in the top of the fifth. The Bulldogs aren't going away but their pitching has got to be gassed, considering it's their fourth game of the tournament.

Big South Game 7 ... Liberty vs. UNC Asheville

Let's play Hit Parade in Rock Hill ... as soon as UNCA takes a 5-4 lead, Liberty scores three in the bottom of the third and goes up 7-5.

Garrett Young singles and gets to second on a wild pitch (each catcher is getting a full workout today) before Tim Nanry Ks and Chris Brown does the same. Patrick Gaillard, a native of Taylors, S.C., near Greenville, singles to left to drive in Young and then P.K. Keller mashes one almost off the scoreboard in left-center. It was close to hitting the board but fell in the gap between the fence and the mesh screen over the lights.

Big South Game 7 ... Liberty vs. UNC Asheville

Whatever Jim Bob said to UNCA has worked ... the Bulldogs explode for five runs and lead 5-4 after two and a half.

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Big South Game 7 ... Liberty vs. UNC Asheville

Liberty makes it 4-0 in the bottom of the second after Chris Brown leads off with a single and Patrick Gaillard bunts him to second. P.K. Keller singles and David Giammaresi reaches on catcher's interference on a full count (the third time of the tournament John Whited has been flagged for CI). Nate Thompson then smoked a bases-clearing double for three runs and got to third on an error, but the Flames followed with two straight outs.

More importantly, this development hasn't shut up Jim Bob in the least. He's out there shouting through a rolled-up program, relying on "WHOOOOOOO!" on every at-bat.

Big South Game 7 ... Liberty vs. UNC Asheville

Liberty takes a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first after leadoff man Kenneth Negron walks, gets to second on a wild pitch, gets to third on a wild pitch and scores after catcher John Whited tries to catch him napping at third base and rifles the throw into left field.

I haven't seen a succession of plays that bad since Little League.

Big South Game 7 ... Liberty vs. UNC Asheville

And we're underway as UNCA goes down 1-2-3 in the first, but more importantly, JIM BOB IS BACK. Let's see if he actually put on some pants today to cheer for his beloved Bulldogs.

That mullet could inspire a song, it's so prominent. Seriously. It'd be a chart-topper within five minutes of inking in the last quarter-note.

Big South Game 7 ... Liberty vs. UNC Asheville

We're just about ready to go here back in Rock Hill, S.C., with Game 7 about to begin at 11 a.m. I'm still impressed with how Winthrop's Jonathan Settle, who lost the closer's role earlier in the season because of inconsistency, threw four innings and gave up one measly hit against the Flames last night. Liberty seems still shell-shocked, but they've got the chance to erase it today.

The winner today plays again at 8 p.m., meaning the loser of the Winthrop-Coastal Carolina game later today will be making Ernie Banks proud and playing two.

May 24, 2007

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Jonathan Settle shuts them down and Winthrop wins, 4-1. The Eagles advance to play Coastal Carolina at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

In the bottom of the seventh, Bryn Henderson reaches on a leadoff error. Eddie Tisdale tries to bunt but pops up. Liberty's Kenneth Negron is playing for the hit-and-run and runs toward second on the pitch, Winthrop's Kevin Nolan drives it right where Negron was standing and Henderson gets to third.

Mike Honce bunts in front of plate and Tim John (Phil's twin) charges. Henderson bluffs but stays on third, so John turns to first, except no one's covering and Honce reaches.

With the bases loaded and the score still 1-1, freshman John Murrian holds off on a full-count ball four, scoring one run. Chris Carrara walks on four straight pitches and Phil Carey bloops an RBI single. Two straight outs follow and Winthrop leads 4-1, six outs away from a win.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Jonathan Settle is just what Winthrop always thought he could be through two innings of relief. Dogged by inconsistency all year but holding on to a devilishly nasty slider, Settle has punched out three Flames batters and we're in the bottom of the seventh, tied at 1.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Cody Brown gets a successful sacrifice down and Winthrop elects to intentionally walk Patrick Gaillard, loading the bases with one out. Jonathan Settle whiffs Errol Hollinger on three pitches, although the second one was hammered just foul down the third-base line.

Then David Giammaresi bounces one in front of Settle, who flips to John Murrian for the force at home. Liberty scores one but wastes a beautiful opportunity as we go to the bottom of the sixth tied at 1.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Phil John, the second cousin of Tommy John, leads off the Liberty sixth with a triple and scores on Garrett Young's single up the box to tie it 1-1. Jason Franzblau is over 100 pitches now, which has got the Winthrop bullpen up and throwing. I don't know how much that will help, but at least it's better than the last time Franzblau faced Liberty.

He got lit in the eighth and coach Joe Hudak left him in with nobody warming up and Winthrop lost a game it couldn't afford to lose rather quickly.

Hudak's made the call and Jonathan Settle will try to work out of a two-on, no-out situation with one run already in.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

The Eagles get a fantastic defensive play when Billy Froehlich hauls in a line drive in deep left, hits the wall, then spins and doubles off Garrett Young at second. But they can't make it count in the bottom of the fourth, recording two straight outs and then Eddie Tisdale wasting his single by getting thrown out stealing second.

Tisdale redeems himself in the top of the fifth when Errol Hollinger hits one right on the third-base line. Bryn Henderson stabs and throws across his body and Tisdale hangs on to the ball although Hollinger smashes into him. Jason Franzblau gets out of the frame without further damage to the 1-0 Winthrop lead, but he's up to 94 pitches. He can go more, but if Winthrop expects to have him pitch again this week, he better sit down soon.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Winthrop on top 1-0 through three, but starter Jason Franzblau's already got 59 pitches. I think he may be having a little trouble with plate umpire Randy Hoback, who's calling a tight zone. We'll see if Liberty can take advantage of it and work over Franzblau — the Flames know more than anybody how weak the Eagles' bullpen is.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Jason Franzblau rebounds with a 1-2-3, two-strikeout, 13-pitch inning, and the Eagles strand a runner on second.
1-0 Winthrop, going to the third.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Billy Froehlich lashes a two-out double past left fielder P.K. Keller and Tommy Lentz scores all the way from first. Eagles take a quick 1-0 lead but Jason Franzblau needs to buckle down with a 10-pitch inning to make the Winthrop fans feel really comfortable.

Man, that ice cream cookie was good ... I might have to go get another one.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Winthrop's Jason Franzblau walks the leadoff man but picks him off two pitches later. I'd have to check, but the Eagles have got to be among the national leaders in pickoffs. Every one of their hurlers can do it well, especially lefty reliever Ryan Mullins.

Franzblau's through the first inning with no major damage, the only hit a dinker that dribbled off his leg and ricocheted just far enough to let Garrett Young get to first. Signs of trouble, though ... he was behind every batter; his control was spotty, making catcher John Murrian look like a jack-in-the-box; and he threw 28 pitches. Not good for a team hoping to stay out of the same bullpen that gave up four runs in the ninth last night.

Scoreless in the first, Eagles coming to bat.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

The sun delay put us behind eight minutes but the Eagles are finally on the field in their home garnets. Liberty's sporting the gray and red visitors' unis, no blue in the uniform at all. Jason Franzblau wheels and deals, fires high for Ball 1 and we're underway.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Winthrop's Jason Franzblau (The Sideburned One) has gotten the call and is warming up before the first. The sun is just about to drop behind the trees way behind center so the batter will be able to see, and we're just about ready to start.

They sell giant ice-cream cookies here that are excellent. Unfortunately, the first bite will leave your teeth embedded in the cookie and the last few will be on your shirt, if you don't know what you're doing.

Big South Game 6 ... Winthrop vs. Liberty

Liberty swept Winthrop two weeks ago in a three-game set, effectively ending the Eagles' at-large NCAA hopes and kick-starting a 1-5 conference finish after a 14-1 start. Let's see if the Eagles are good and ticked off about it.

The Flames, meanwhile, looked good yesterday, rallying from a 2-1 deficit in the ninth to win 3-2 over rival VMI. Should be interesting to see if Winthrop coach Joe Hudak will go with Brett Moore, who threw six perfect innings against Liberty but still lost against Liberty, or Jason Franzblau (team wins leader) will get the call on the mound.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

Nick McCully burns strike three past leadoff hitter Chad Rice for the second out and Ks Eddie Van Es on five pitches to end the threat. Coastal wins 4-2 and advances ... Winthrop and Liberty on deck.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

Coastal's two outs away from a 4-2 win but VMI has runners on second and third with one out. The Chants turn to Nick McCully, who struck out three of his four batters yesterday.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

It's time to stretch in Rock Hill, Coastal leading VMI 4-2.

Apparently, the new seventh-inning stretch theme is George Thorogood and the Destroyers' "Bad to the Bone." I must have missed that memo, along with the one about how to fill out my TPS reports.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

Marlin Ikenberry finally put Trey Barham on the bench after his arm began melting out of his sleeve and the relief crew got out of a two-on, two-out jam. VMI's still losing 4-2 and we've played five complete in two hours. Man, this is going to be a long one.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

Tommy Baldridge leads off with a single and Matt Rademacher bunts back to Trey Barham, who tries to get Baldridge at second but throws into center field. Derek Martin bunts and Barham mishandles it (ruled a hit) and then he walks Tyler Bortnick to force in a run.

Big South Player of the Year David Sappelt rips a hot shot that third baseman A.J. Yoder gloves and gets an out at second, but a run scores. Barham regroups and strikes out Dom Duggan looking, but Coastal leads 3-2 through 4.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

Well, well ... nine-hole hitter Shane Geisslinger fires a single into shallow right field and Thane Smith, who stole second one pitch earlier, scores for a 2-1 VMI lead. The Chanticleers seem to be going through the motions a little bit ... but maybe they're just waiting for the late innings to rally, like they did yesterday.

The Keydets are doing everything they can ... they're running with abandon and already have three stolen bases. We go to the fourth and it's really starting to get hot at The Winthrop Ballpark ... compared to some of these other tournaments going on, I'm sure some of you are jealous.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

Robert Crumpler drives one into left and VMI has tied the score at 1, going into the bottom of the third. Coastal didn't get this far by panicking, though.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

VMI's had its chances, getting a leadoff plunk from A.J. Yoder and putting runners on the corners with two outs, but Bobby Gagg has worked himself out of trouble. Coastal catcher Matt Rademacher just made it hurt, parking a pitch into the Douglas firs behind left field. 1-0 Coastal after two and VMI pitcher Trey Barham has already thrown 53 pitches.


I mentioned previously I wasn't sure if purple was the right color for baseball. Add teal to the list — Coastal's real, real good, but that isn't the most intimidating color they could have chosen.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

VMI mows through the lineup and we're scoreless heading to the second. Chris Raber got a two-out walk but Trey Barham got David Anderson to pop out to center.

Anderson was good enough to make first-team All-Big South as a relief pitcher and second-team as a DH.

But more importantly ...

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Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

We're under way here in Game 5 and Coastal's Bobby Gagg is looking sharp, as he should. The Big South Pitcher of the Year is mowing them down, which is causing the PA folks to play the "Goodbye Soliloquy" from "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" after every strikeout. I've now heard Cary Elwes say goodbye in five different languages at least 6,589 times.

Big South Game 5 ... Coastal Carolina vs. VMI

Of course we can't start on time here in Rock Hill, so I'm being treated to yet another playing of "The Redneck Yacht Club." Why is it everybody assumes because you're born in the South, you like this country drivel?

I prefer the Denis Leary approach ... get a jukebox and play the Stones, 24-7.

Big South Game 4 ... UNC Asheville vs. High Point

High Point goes down 1-2-3 and UNCA wins it, 9-5. The Panthers fought hard but in the third day of the tournament, pitching becomes suspect. UNCA had better arms and used two four-run innings to leap and stay ahead of High Point.

I see Coastal Carolina warming up, getting ready to take on VMI at 3 p.m. It's become warm, not really hot, here in Rock Hill and the sunscreen is starting to appear. I believe I'll go grab one of those heavenly chicken sandwiches before the next game.

Big South Game 4 ... UNC Asheville vs. High Point

The Panthers just loaded the bases in the eighth with one out, a grand chance to cut into the Bulldogs' lead, and fell apart. Steve Burnich was rung up on a third strike and John Whited slashed a hard ball to short, which was turned into a fielders' choice. UNCA comes to bat in the ninth and only needs three outs to win.

Of course, Winthrop had a five-run lead in the ninth yesterday and won by a run, stranding the tying run at third base.

Big South Game 4 ... UNC Asheville vs. High Point

UNCA strikes back with four runs in the fifth and have taken a 9-4 lead over the Panthers, who are showing some signs of fatigue. We've had missed pickoff throws, missed force-outs, missed signs and missed swings in this one, folks, and there's still three innings to go.

But Jim Bob is still rockin' his look, unbuttoning his jersey to reveal a chest that looks like a Jackson Pollock painting and some shorts made of miniature American flags. We love your patriotism, Jim Bob, but please cover up that thing.

Big South Game 4 ... UNC Asheville vs. High Point

High Point's not going quietly. The Panthers notch four runs in the bottom of the third on a missed tag at the plate, a questionable base-hit/error and some key hits and it's 5-4 Asheville. Jim Bob is on a constant "WHOOOOO!" in the stands, dashing as always in his UNCA basketball jersey (showing off the guns to all the lucky ladies in attendance) and the mullet looks like it got an extra washing. Prell, perhaps?

Big South Game 4 ... UNC Asheville vs. High Point

UNCA strikes back with four runs in the fifth and have taken a 9-4 lead over the Panthers, who are showing some signs of fatigue. We've had missed pickoff throws, missed force-outs, missed signs and missed swings in this one, folks, and there's still three innings to go.

But Jim Bob is still rockin' his look, unbuttoning his jersey to reveal a chest that looks like a Jackson Pollock painting and some shorts made of miniature American flags. We love your patriotism, Jim Bob, but please cover up that thing.

Big South Game 4 ... UNC Asheville vs. High Point

High Point can't answer in the second and UNCA continues to hot bats, David Williams leading off with a double and going to third when Bill Manion bobbled the ball in center field. Elliott Arrington grounded out to first and Williams couldn't advance, but then Kyle Smith got beaned and Steve Burnich popped up to the pitcher on another bad bunt.

John Whited walks and then ... ANOTHER bases-loaded walk! Kevin Mattison pops up for the third out but the Bulldogs lead 5-0, making for some happy heckles from the hero of yesterday's posts, Jim Bob (the guy with the best mullet in the history of Earth).

Big South Game 4 ... UNC Asheville vs. High Point

Something got under UNCA's bench in between innings. After going down 1-2-3 in the first, the Bulldogs' David Williams singles, followed by Elliott Arrington's single, followed by a strikeout, followed by Steve Burnich's single. Then John Whited brings Williams home with a single, Matt Henson gets a bases-loaded walk and the Panthers go to the bullpen.

Kevin Mattison golfs the first pitch for a two-run bloop single but then Henson gets caught stealing third (Why would you attempt to steal with a 4-0 lead and one out?). Mattison ends up going to third on a pitch to the backstop and Justin Schumer walks, making that stolen base attempt look even more dubious, before slugger Rob Vernon swings for the fences and pops up to second. Bulldogs lead 4-0 going to the bottom of the second.

Big South Game 4 ... UNC Asheville vs. High Point

We're under way here in Rock Hill where UNCA goes down quickly in the first and High Point puts its first two batters on. Robby Kuzdale, named Wednesday as Big South Freshman of the Year, just got gunned at third base on a bad sacrifice bunt and then the Panthers hit into a double play. We're scoreless after one.

I have now heard Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day" five times in the past two days. I'm considering getting my CD book out of the car and telling the PA girl to pick and choose.

Big South Game 4 ... UNC Asheville vs. High Point

About to begin a scintillating Day 3 of action here at The Winthrop Ballpark in beautiful Rock Hill, S.C., which for those of you who don't know (or roughly 99 percent of the population) is 15 minutes straight south of Charlotte, N.C. This is a much better town to be in this weekend, considering the annual salute to mental illness (sorry, Jim Murray) known as the Coca Cola 600 is just up the road in Concord.

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May 23, 2007

Big South Game 3 ... VMI vs. Liberty

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the tying run on third, VMI elects to put a man on first to set up for the force out. Then Liberty's Nate Thompson singles through the box to tie the score. The Keydets walk P.K. Keller to intentionally load the bases and Patrick Gaillard delivers a walk-off single to win it.

Liberty wins 4-3, sticking it to its rival yet again, and gets to play Winthrop, which it swept two weeks ago, tomorrow.

Big South Game 3 ... Liberty vs. VMI

Now it's just getting downright thrilling. Still 3-2 going into the seventh and I'm curious to how long this can last. Michael Bowman and Dustin Umberger are hurling a true pitchers' duel.

Big South Game 3 ... Liberty vs. VMI

All is quiet ... for now. No scoring since the initial outburst and VMI still on top 3-2 in the fifth.

Big South Game 3 ... Liberty vs. VMI

First Liberty strikes back with a run in the bottom of the first, then VMI scores another in the second when Thane Smith doubles to score Justin Hess. With a 3-1 lead, VMI goes to the bottom of the second, where Patrick Gaillard nukes a solo home run.

VMI up 3-2, going to the third.

Big South Game 3 ... Liberty vs. VMI

Michael Roberts comes up with a two-run triple (gotta hate those!) and VMI takes a two-run lead in the first on arch-rival Liberty. True to form, the game started late due to Winthrop and High Point running long, the moment of silence beforehand honoring late Liberty founder Jerry Falwell and that stubborn sun not going down, but we're under way.

VMI up 2-0 in the first and if they don't find a way to keep these bluebottles and gnats out of here, I'm going to bring in a flyswatter tomorrow.

For the people who can't keep the window shut.

Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

So Winthrop goes into the ninth with a 6-1 lead and leaves with a 6-5 win. I know I said the bullpen was struggling, but this is ridiculous.

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Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

Eddie Tisdale atones for two previous strikeouts with guys on by doubling in Tommy Lentz with two outs in the seventh. Eagles lead 6-1 but Alex Wilson is at 106 pitches and about to pitch the eighth. Bullpen is warming ... we'll see if it's any better than it's been in recent weeks.

Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

Chris "Goose" Carrara delivers and RBI single as the temperature and Winthrop's score rises. Eagles lead 5-1 going into the seventh, High Point's in the bullpen and Alex Wilson is still on the mound. Let's see if coach Joe Hudak will let him go the distance or perhaps save him for the weekend.

Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

High Point takes advantage of a leadoff walk and scores to make it 4-1 Winthrop in the sixth. Alex Wilson looks like he's tiring ... he's gone to three-ball counts on four of his last six batters but still no action in the Eagles' bullpen.

Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

Mike Honce drives a pitch deep to center and it gets past the diving fielder, giving him a triple, before John Murrian mashes one deep enough for a sacrifice fly. Winthrop leads 4-0 in the fifth but Alex Wilson's sitting on 60 pitches. No one wants to go the Winthrop bullpen with the way it's been throwing lately.

Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

Why you don't pitch around somebody ... the next guy might be a little ticked off that you don't think much of him.

Winthrop's Bryn Henderson follows an intentional walk to Billy Froehlich by driving in a run and it's 3-0 Eagles in the fourth.

Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

This is pathetic. I've just seen the third blown call in three innings.

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Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

Winthrop takes a 2-0 lead in the second after an error (questionable hard-hit single) eludes High Point first baseman Matt Schlanger and the floodgates open. Alex Wilson has struck out three in two innings but his pitch count is around 35 already.

Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

After a half an inning, it's scoreless, but Big South umpires apparently have this deal about not calling runners safe when they're clearly beating the throws. Two UNCA runners were called out against Coastal after stepping on first ahead of the throw and High Point's Bill Manion was just ruled out when he slid into second about two seconds before the throw got there.

I guess if the play looked good enough, it doesn't matter what actually happens.

Big South Game 2 ... Winthrop vs. High Point

They've announced the all-conference honorees before the game and eight guys from Coastal Carolina made it, including Player of the Year David Sappelt, Pitcher of the Year Bobby Gagg and Coach of the Year Gary Gilmore. An interesting note -- Coastal had nobody on the first or second team last year.

Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

Needing baserunners while trailing 6-3, Steve Burnich swung on the first pitch and lofted it right back to the catcher. Coastal's Nick McCully blazed three nasty fastballs past Cameron Duckworth and then Brett Robinson took strike one, fouled off the next, took balls one and two outside, fouled one off past first base, fouled another to the backstop, took ball three high and finally struck out swinging. This one was over before UNCA could think about rallying.

Coastal wins 6-3 and will play at 3 p.m. Thursday. UNCA's back at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

Unbelievable. Chris Nigro relieved for UNC Asheville with the bases loaded, trying to preserve a 3-3 tie, and plunked Chris Raber to force in the go-ahead run. Granted, Raber won't win any prizes for trying to get ouf of the way, but how do even attempt to throw inside in this situation?

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Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

UNCA's Rob Vernon just drilled a ball to left that was foul by maybe the width of one of Jim Bob's fabulously trashy mullet hairs. That would have been a one-run lead for the Bulldogs, but instead, it's foul, Vernon pops up and it's still 3-3 going into the bottom of the eighth.

Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

Pinch-hitter Edmond Locklear just crushed a first pitch well out to right to tie this game at 3-3. The Bulldogs aren't lying down to the mighty Chanticleers. 3-3 in the seventh and Coastal may have to go to the bullpen — but do they go to their best or hope their lessers can get it done?

Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

UNCA just squandered a one-out situation with runners at the corners and still trails 3-1 in the sixth. High Point and Winthrop are sitting in the stands waiting for their game, probably discussing the sunburn they're getting from the Eagles' bright-yellow jerseys.

Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

David Sappelt just teed off on Alan DeRatt for a solo homer and a 2-1 Coastal lead. It managed to shut up Jim Bob for almost 30 seconds. We're heading to the fifth and that exposed sheet of plywood on the left-field bleachers is doing a great job of keeping the sun out of my eyes.

Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

UNCA still leads 1-0 in the third and is smacking the ball into every gap in the ballpark. Plus, Coastal just dropped a foul pop-out right behind the plate. I can see the vein in Gary Gilmore's head throbbing from the press box.

But what's most important ...

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Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

UNCA gets a run when Steve Burnich slaps a bouncer up the middle, scoring Elliott Arrington, who ought to win some sort of award for having the most double letters in one name. Be interesting to see how the Chanticleers respond to this, considering they're fast approaching sainthood in the realm of lower-state South Carolina baseball. 1-0 UNCA in the second.

Man, this is a gorgeous day. Slightly cloudy but not threatening, making it 70 degrees and not scalding hot.

Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

I have just seen two of the strangest things ever in a baseball game. Remember how, when you were a kid, you'd madly chase every foul ball that went into the stands? Coastal's Matt Rademacher fouled one into the stands. It hit the seats, rolled down seven rows of steps before anyone even got up to think about retrieving it. One guy slowly wandered over and tried to get it, but it squirted free of his grasp, surprisingly.

It's still down there by the fence.


Then with two outs, UNCA's Alan DeRatt gave up a long fly ball. Right fielder David Williams tried to one-hand it and dropped it for an error. Then Tommy Baldridge got on on catcher's interference. Then DeRatt beaned Rademacher.

And Coastal still didn't score, giving coach Gary Gilmore the start of his 400th nervous breakdown of the season.

Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

Of all the songs to welcome two baseball teams to the field for Game 1 today, the PA announcer selected "Hey Mickey." If I don't hear some Van Halen soon, I may be tempted to see how far I can Frisbee my laptop over the backstop.

Big South Game 1 ... Coastal vs. UNC Asheville

No. 14 Coastal Carolina is about to take the field and they look positively angry. I'm guessing coach Gary Gilmore told them there would be no letdown after winning the Big South regular-season championship because their host NCAA bid could still be on hold. I don't see how -- seems to me 44 wins and a No. 7 RPI would be a lock, and Myrtle Beach isn't a terrible place to spend the weekend.

Kudos to Winthrop Athletics for springing for a delicious McDonald's breakfast. I threw away the hotcakes and sausage and ate the styrofoam plate. It's more nutritious.

May 22, 2007

Big South Game B ... Radford vs. High Point

And that's a wrap, folks ... High Point defeats Radford 9-3 and advances to play Winthrop at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Coastal Carolina will kick off the day at 11 a.m. against UNC Asheville and Liberty and VMI throw down at 8 p.m.

Hoping to see some more warm weather ... forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms. As long as they've got the chicken sandwiches, I'll be happy.

Big South Game B ... Radford vs. High Point

OH MAN ... Randy Schwartz, the Big South RBI leader, just chased a foul pop out of play and found out why it's good to keep an eye on the ball and the territory. He rammed into a brick wall and dropped like a rag doll, but he returned to the game and reportedly just had a scuffed hand.

He's from Canada ... probably used to much-worse hockey injuries.

Big South Game B ... Radford vs. High Point

High Point's broken it open in Rock Hill ... the Panthers are winning 9-1 after seven and it's looking like the prediction will soon become reality. High Point will play Winthrop tomorrow while Coastal Carolina will play UNC Asheville.

Big South Game B ... Radford vs. High Point

Radford scratched a run across in the fifth but High Point still leads 4-1 in the sixth. Eammon Portice has six strikeouts.

Big South Game B ... Radford vs. High Point

Bill Manion's again come up big.

He just lasered a three-run homer over the left-field wall, missing the foul pole by maybe an inch, to give High Point a 4-0 lead. Not that it wasn't expected ... Radford was 10-35 coming in ... but Manion hadn't gone yard all year.

It's looking bleak for the Highlanders.

Big South Game B ... Radford vs. High Point

High Point catcher Jeff Cowan is in his second career game behind the plate ... Normal starter Billy Alvino woke up with a stomach virus today.

High Point takes a quick 1-0 lead in the first after doubles from Robby Kuzdale and Bill Manion. Kuzdale missed a solo homer by a half-inch, bouncing just under the wall's top and back onto the field.

I don't know if purple is really a great color for baseball unis. High Point's campus does a good job of using the purple in its buildings and banners and such, but there's a reason the Diamondbacks dropped purple from their unis.

Big South Game B ... Radford vs. High Point

Another handful of spectators ... I guess it's to be expected for two teams who traveled at least three hours to get here. Big South strikeout king Eammon Portice is on the hill for High Point ... when this guy's on, he's pretty nasty. Only 6-2, but could get a few looks from the majors after the season's over.

Right on target ... first pitch at 8:04. Scheduled start: 8 p.m.

Big South Game B ... Radford vs. High Point

I've been at The Winthrop Ballpark for almost every home game the Eagles had this year and never once did it start at the scheduled time. It looks as if tonight's game against Radford and High Point (Game B in the Big South tournament) won't be starting at 8 p.m. either. At least the tinker toy behind center field (the in-construction sun screen) looks interesting.

Radford is also wearing some throwback unis ... plain gray with red stripes, no names, one script "R" on the right side and high socks. A good look.

Big South Game A ... Charleston Southern vs. UNC Asheville

So long, Bucs.

UNCA wraps up a 3-0 win in the first game and heads to Wednesday, where they'll probably face No. 14 Coastal Carolina, barring a huge upset from Radford over High Point tonight. Graham Baughn throws a complete game, striking out eight, and more importantly, saves Alan DeRatt for a big game tomorrow. The Bulldogs won it all last year as a five-seed, so never say never.

I'm outta here until the second game at 8 ... thanks to the infamous Winthrop "sun delay."

Big South Game A ... Charleston Southern vs. UNC Asheville

UNCA's added another run and Charleston Southern is three outs away from being the first team eliminated in the new first-day format. CSU coach Jason Murray, a great guy who used to be an assistant at Winthrop, Florida and Michigan, could be in danger here, job-wise. Of course, since they don't give him any assistant coaches to work with, I'm not sure if he's in the best situation anyway.

Big South Game A ... Charleston Southern vs. UNC Asheville

Finally, a score!
UNCA takes a 2-0 lead in the sixth after a game with four combined hits. John Whited shot one through the box and got to second when nine-hole hitter Matt Henson walked. Kevin Mattison hit a dribbler that got Whited out at third but the Bulldogs still had two on, which hurt when Justin Schumer drove in Henson. Then Rob Vernon hits a fielders' choice that could have got Mattison at home but CSU went to second. The inning ended when Vernon got caught stealing.


Way to work that rally, Robbie.

Big South Game A ... Charleston Southern vs. UNC Asheville

Oh well ... Rob Vernon just snuck a double inside the line to break up the perfect game. Buccaneers coming up in the bottom of the fifth, still scoreless, and it's official ... Winthrop's chicken sandwiches are delicious.

Big South Game A ... Charleston Southern vs. UNC Asheville

Still no score after three ... CSU's Brandon Roberts has yet to allow a baserunner and UNCA's Graham Baugh has struck out four

Big South Game A ... Charleston Southern vs. UNC Asheville

There are maybe 20 people here ... not counting the teams, of course. We've already seen the first error of the tournament and right now, I can hear a few rumors from the smallish crowd about what's going on out in center field. There are four naked steel struts behind the fence, which will become Winthrop's new sun screen around July. At Winthrop, the sun rises in the East and sets in the eyes of the batter.

Big South Game A — Charleston Southern vs. UNC Asheville

Pre-game: Adams and Falwell honored

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May 21, 2007

Big South tournament preview

Looking at the eight teams descending on Rock Hill, S.C., for the Big South tournament. Winthrop tries to erase an up-and-down season by winning the tournament on its home turf and claiming a third straight NCAA tournament berth. Coastal Carolina looks to put a stamp on one of its finest seasons and hopes for an NCAA Regional host site. VMI has to make something happen or a 34-19 season is history. And defending tournament champ UNC Asheville remembers that anything can happen come tournament time.

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