Hunter Higgerson's RBI single clinches Radford's first trip to NCAA tourney
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. -- Hunter Higgerson delivered a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth and ascended No. 28 Radford (43-14) to a place it has never been, the owners of a Big South tournament championship. The Highlanders, now winners of 15 consecutive games, defeated Coastal Carolina (38-19), 5-4 in Saturday's title game and earned the league's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament, another first in program history.
The walk-off winning hit completed a Radford comeback for the victory after trailing 4-1 midway through the contest. The Highlanders rallied for two runs in the fifth and lone runs in the eighth and ninth to win their eighth one-run game this season against a Big South opponent. Chris Coia came across with the winning run after opening the ninth with an infield single. He moved to second on a Shane Johnsonbaugh base hit, stole third and plated on Higgerson's two-out, two-strike line drive into left field.
"I thought it said a lot about our guys the way we rebounded from a deficit against a program that has won numerous championships versus ours who, until [Saturday], hadn't won one," Radford head coach Joe Raccuia said. "To be able to bounce back after their big inning, to calm the game down, execute and chip away to put us in a position so we could win it in a walk off, it's a lot to be said for the leadership on this team."
Radford opened the scoring in the second on a Brad Keen sac fly to score Danny Hrbek, who singled to open the inning. The Highlanders got the lead early for starter Mitchell MacKeith, who retired the first nine batters he faced, but ran into trouble in the fourth.
Anthony Marks opened with a base hit followed by Michael Paez singling as well. A walk loaded the bases before Zach Remillard tied the game with a base hit. Tyler Chadwick drove in a pair of runs with a single, and Matt Beiard knocked in a run with the fifth hit of the inning. In all, the Chanticleers pushed across four runs to take a three-run lead.
Those would be the only five hits Coastal would get on the afternoon. Kyle Palmer replaced MacKeith to start the fifth and did not allow a hit in 2.2 innings pitched. Austin Ross was just as effective in his 1.1 innings, and Ryan Meisinger (5-0) pitched the ninth to earn the victory in relief. Meisinger closed out each of the four games in the tournament for the Highlanders recording a win and two saves.
The comeback started in the fifth for the Highlanders. Keen singled to open the inning and later scored on a Josh Reavis infield single. Patrick Marshall drove in the second run of the inning with a sac fly to cut the Coastal lead to 4-3. In the frame, the Highlanders chased Coastal starter Bobby Holmes, who lasted 4.1 innings and allowed three runs on five hits.
Radford tied the game in the eighth. Reavis and Marshall opened with singles, and Higgerson bunted them into scoring position setting up an RBI ground ball by Aaron Scoville to tie the game. The Highlanders left the go-ahead run at third base, however, when Mike Morrison (2-3) struck out Keen andTrevor Riggs to end the threat.
Meisinger worked a perfect ninth with two more strikeouts to set up the bottom half heroics for Higgerson.