May 8, 2013
CONWAY - The Coastal Carolina baseball team will play the first of its "Final Four" home games this weekend, hosting UNC Asheville this Friday (Noon), Saturday (Noon) and Sunday (10 am). Prior to the first pitch Saturday, Coastal will honor seniors Ted Blackman, Alex Buccilli, Aaron Burke, Ryan Connolly, Justin Creel and Josh Powell.
NOTE: Due to the Pelicans' need to prepare the stadium each day, gates for all three CCU games will open one hour prior to first pitch.
Ted Blackman is having a breakout season in his senior year. The Altamonte Springs, Fla., native is batting a career-high .301 with a team-best 34 runs scored and .437 on-base percentage, while having five home runs and 31 walks to tie for the team lead. Since his move to the leadoff spot in the batting order, Coastal turned its season around, going 21-10, as he reached base 44.6 percent of the time when he leads off an inning to set the table. Blackman had a streak of 31 games reaching safely (hit/walk/hit by pitch) which came to an end at Presbyterian two weeks ago. In that game, he came off the bench as a pinch hitter, hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game and CCU would go on to get the victory. Big games this year includes a 3-for-3 game, adding a walk and hit by pitch, with four RBI and an impressive home run to right field in a 10-2 win over The Citadel; going 5-of-11 with six RBI and two home runs in a series sweep at Winthrop; and, of course, his walk-off home run to end a two-day, 15-inning marathon win over Radford. Last season, Blackman came on strong at the end of the season - reaching base safely in 20 of his final 23 games - to help Coastal win its sixth straight Big South Tournament title. Although he batted just .267, he had a .398 on-base percentage thanks to 32 walks, which ranked fifth in the league. Notably, he went 3-for-4 with a stolen base in the Big South championship game and batted .500 at the NCAA Regional, hitting his first career home run.
Alex Buccilli has made a name for himself with his peculiar ritual in the batter's box, but he has used that routine to earn second team All-Big South honors and All-Tournament at the Big South Championship. This season, his overall batting average is down due to a slow start, but he has turned his season around, batting .353 in conference games this season. While he did experience some struggles, he continued to be patient at the plate as he is tied for the team lead in walks, while ranking among the league leaders. Also, Buccilli, a spring 2013 CCU graduate, has a knack for coming through in the clutch. This season he is tied for the team lead with three game-winning RBI and five game-winning runs scored, while leading the team in both categories over the past two seasons with 10 and 13, respectively. One of Buccilli's more memorable games came in a 14-inning win over the College of Charleston. He was just 1-for-5, but his one hit was the game-winner as he lined a single up the middle with the bases loaded. Also, he made a key defensive play, turning a double play from left field, catching a fly ball and throwing out a base runner at first base that was running on a hit-and-run play.
Aaron Burke had a good year in 2011, posting a respectable 3.15 ERA in 28 games. Then, 2012 saw Burke have one of the best seasons in CCU and Big South history. He earned All-American honors, was the Big South co-Pitcher of the Year and was the Big South Tournament co-MVP. Last year, he led the league and ranked 22nd in the NCAA in wins (10) while posting a league-best 1.58 ERA, ranking fifth in the nation. To top it off, he added seven saves to rank fifth in the Big South, while his 35 appearances tied for the league lead. In conference games, Burke posted a 0.31 ERA. Burke is 3-2 this year with a 3.32 ERA, having one tough outing at the College of Charleston to inflate his ERA. Burke has the unenviable task of coming into the game with runners on base and CCU needing a ground ball, producing 189 over the past two seasons. He has been very efficient in doing just that as he has inherited 24 base runners this season with eight scoring, while he has inherited 79 for his career with just 17 scoring. Burke earned his degree in Interdisciplinary Studies this spring.
Ryan Connolly is on pace to duplicate Burke's season from last year, which is appropriate as the two shared Big South Tournament MVP honors last season and both were preseason All-Americans heading into this season. However, Connolly will not only leave his name in the CCU and Big South record books, but he will be a mainstay in the NCAA annals as well. For his career to date, Connolly has appeared in 131 games, shattering the CCU and Big South mark of 117, and standing 10th in NCAA history. Connolly is on the "Stopper of the Year" Watch List as he has posted a 4-3 record with a league-best 11 saves, ranking 17th in the NCAA, and a 1.63 ERA. He also ranks 17th in the NCAA in fewest hits allowed per nine innings as opponents are batting just .181 off the right-hander and he ranks 11in the NCAA in WHIP (fewest walks and hits per innings pitched). Further proving he is a "Stopper," Connolly has inherited 20 runners this season and just one has scored. For his career, he has inherited 120 runners with just 27 scoring. Connolly has earned Big South Pitcher of the Week honors once this season, but has been CCU's nominee five times. Most recently, he was nominated for getting a win and a save as CCU took 2-of-3 at #23 Georgia Tech. One of his most impressive games came when he "started" the second half of the two-day, 15-inning marathon versus Radford and got the win as he threw a scoreless seven innings and 112 pitches. Connolly has led the league in appearances in each of his first three years, including a CCU record 40 games in 2010. He was a second team All-Big South selection in 2010 and '12 as well as a Freshman All-American in 2010.
Justin Creel is being showered with accolades for his work in the classroom, but his contributions on the field should not be overlooked. For instance, he is tied for the team lead with three game-winning RBI this season and has seven game-winning RBI over the last two seasons, ranking second on the team behind Buccilli's 10. Also, while splitting time between first and second base this season, Coastal is 9-2 in games Creel starts at first base and 10-2 when he hits in the seventh spot in the batting order. Making these things possible are the facts that, while batting just .203 this season, he has an impressive .323 on-base percentage thanks to 12 walks, his batting average is nearly 100 points better when runners are on base as opposed to no one being on base and 50 percent of the time when he bats with runners on base, he successfully moves runners. Last season, Creel started in 58 games, including 54 at second base, and he led the team, led the league and ranked 74th in the NCAA with 12 sacrifice bunts, while ranking eighth in the league with 31 walks. In the field, he ranked fourth in the Big South with 161 assists and ninth in the league by turning 29 double plays. Off the field, Creel, who graduates this semester from CCU, has a perfect 4.0 GPA. In turn, he received one of the Big South's most prestigious honors - the Christenberry Award for Academic Excellence, has been named Academic All-District and was voted the CCU Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Josh Powell came to Coastal after two successful seasons at Brunswick (N.C.) Community College. Originally set to be a pitcher and catcher, Powell settled into the role as Coastal's number two catcher. Powell, who graduated this spring from Coastal with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, is a Big South Presidential Honor Roll recipient. Powell has started in eight of his 16 games played this season. He has been productive in his limited time, scoring five runs and driving in five with a double, triple and six walks. In fact, Powell has come to the plate four times this season with a runner on third and less than two outs and he has successfully driven in that runner three times.
Completing the "Final Four" home stand will be Coastal hosting regional rival UNC Wilmington on May 14 (Tuesday) at 6 pm.
The "Final Four" promotion will allow all youth 18 and under free admittance for the UNC Asheville series and CCU's contest versus UNC Wilmington. Also, the cost for adults for each game of the UNCA series will be $5 and $7 for the game versus the rival Seahawks.
The promotions for the "Final Four" games include:
Friday, May 10 at Noon vs UNCA - Baseball Bingo Friday, winner will receive $50 gift card to Eggs Up Grill
Saturday, May 11 at Noon vs UNCA - CCU Baseball will honor is 2013 senior student-athletes pregame and give out reusable bags to the first 150 fans
Sunday, May 12 at 10 am vs UNCA - We Win, You Win - if Chants win, all fans will be going home with a free coupon to Bojangles
Tuesday, May 14 at 6 pm vs UNCW - Free cell phone charging accessory to first 100 fans
Tickets can be purchased in advance online by clicking here or by calling 843-347-8499.