Sponseller lefts CCU over Clemson, Gilmore record 900th career win
CONWAY – With bases loaded in the ninth inning, Lee Sponseller hit a walk-off grand slam to give #27 Coastal Carolina a 9-5 victory over #10 Clemson Tuesday night before a record crowd of 4,130 at Springs Brooks Stadium.
The win not only improved the Chanticleers to 16-7 for the season, but it marked the 900th win for Gary Gilmore as head coach at his alma mater, Coastal Carolina. Gilmore is now 900-464-1 in his 23rd year as Coastal’s head coach, while he improves to 1,153-566-3 in his 29th year as a collegiate head coach.
The game, originally set for 6 pm, was pushed back until 8:30 pm due to rain. While Coastal was in control most of the game, the Tigers (16-5) roared back in the eighth to score four runs, thanks to a three-run home run, to tie the game at 5-5.
In the ninth, Cory Wood started the rally with a double. Clemson elected to intentionally walk Kevin Woodall Jr., and Zach Biermann drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases with no outs. Sponseller, a graduate senior who was a standout the last three seasons at Ohio Dominican, was facing a 2-2 count when he launched his third home run of the season to set off a celebration at home plate.
CCU starter Anthony Simonelli was in line for the win, leaving the game with a 5-1 lead. The freshman allowed just two hits and one run in four innings. Davie Inman followed with three scoreless innings, allowing just one walk with two strikeouts. Jay Causey, who earned the save last Friday at Arkansas State, collected his first win as a Chanticleer. The junior college transfer and Conway native pitched the final 1.2 innings and only allowed one walk while striking out one.
Coastal struck first, scoring one in the bottom of the first. Seth Lancaster reached on the first pitch thanks to catcher’s interference. He then moved to third on a failed pickoff at first due to a throwing error. Wood walked, but on ball four, Clemson’ pitcher Holt Jones threw a wild pitch to allow Lancaster to score.
Clemson knotted the game, 1-1, in the second as Myrtle Beach native Robert Jolly hit a leadoff home run.
The Chants answered with three runs in the home half of the second to go up 4-1. Parker Chavers drew a one-out walk and took third on a single by Keaton Weisz. Matt Beaird followed with a single, scoring Chavers and moving Weisz to third. Lancaster placed a single down the right field line that scored Weisz and allowed Beaird to take third. Wood then executed a squeeze bunt to plate Beaird.
Coastal kept the momentum in the third, adding a run to push its lead to 5-1. Kieton Rivers hit a leadoff triple off the left-center field wall and scored three pitches later when Chavers singled past the third baseman.
The Tigers snapped a streak of four innings without a run by either team by scoring four runs in the eighth to tie the game at 5-5. With one out, Logan Davidson, Seth Beer and Patrick Cromwell had consecutive singles, the last being resulting in a run. Chris Williams then tied the game with a three-run home run.
Carson Spiers (1-1) suffered the loss, allowing two hits, two runs and a walk in 1.1 innings.
Coastal will stay home to host #30 Texas State this weekend. Game times are set for 6 pm Friday, 2 pm Saturday and 11:30 am Sunday.