In its first-ever appearance in an NCAA Tournament regional, Coppin State baseball fought until the final inning.
Trailing 10-2 entering the ninth inning of an elimination game Saturday afternoon against Coastal Carolina, the Eagles scored six runs, including a three-run homer by freshman Josh Hankins, to nearly keep their historic season alive. Coppin State brought the potential winning run to the plate after sophomore Jordan Hamberg was hit by a pitch and sophomore Sebastien Sarabia singled to left field, but senior Marcos Castillo grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
The 10-8 loss to the 2016 national champion Chanticleers ends one of the most successful seasons in Coppin State baseball history.
Sarabia opened the ninth with a single, followed by a walk by Castillo and a single by redshirt junior Tyler Lloyd that loaded the bases. Sophomore Toran Smith entered as a pinch hitter for freshman Landen Argabright and was promptly hit by a pitch, scoring a run. After a lineout to second base by redshirt junior Brian Nicolas, two wild pitches — including a dropped third strike to redshirt junior outfielder Matt Day — allowed two more runs to score, making it 10-5. Redshirt junior Wellington Balsley popped out to third with runners on the corners, but Hankins followed with his first career home run, a deep shot to left field that elicited roars from the Eagles’ dugout.
Coppin State (24-30) was one of three teams with a losing record that made the 64-team tournament field by virtue of capturing its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship since 1995. But the Eagles avoided the top seeds in the tournament, instead being invited to meet No. 8 seed East Carolina at Clark-LeClair Stadium in the Greenville Regional.
“We were pretty surprised given where we projected where we thought we were. We thought we might be at the bottom of the 64 teams that would match us up against a No. 1 team like Tennessee or Stanford or Oregon State,” coach Sherman Reed said. “But to have them give us the great respect of putting us somewhere around 56 or 57 of those 64 teams and place us in Greenville with East Carolina was really a surprise, but a pleasant surprise because it means we were somewhere not at the very bottom.”
The Pirates dominated the opening matchup Friday night, scoring nine runs against Hamberg, the MEAC Pitcher of the Year, to take a 12-1 lead after three innings in an eventual 17-1 victory. East Carolina took a 19-game winning streak into its meeting against Virginia on Saturday night.
This story may be updated.