HARTSVILLE, S.C. – It took nearly four hours, 31 total hits, six errors, a combined 31 runs and 11 innings to finally determine the winner of game number three between the Coker Cobras and the St. Andrews Knights on Sunday afternoon, and in the end it was the home team Coker picking up the 16-15 win over St. Andrews. The Conference Carolinas win improves the Cobras to 3-3 in conference play and moves them to 9-4 overall, while St. Andrews falls to 0-10 on the year and 0-5 in the conference.
The Knights began the day with seven runs in the first two innings, chasing Cobra starter Josh Daniels (Troy, Ill.) from the game after just an inning and a third of work, but Coker quickly righted the ship behind the settler pitching of freshman Tyler Witzel (West Melbourne, Fla.) and a hot hitting offense. The Cobras found themselves down 7-1 as they entered the bottom half of the second inning, but a four run second inning got them back on track and back into the game. In the third inning, St. Andrews scored their eighth run of the game, but a six run inning by the Cobras gave Coker their first lead of the game at 11-8.
Coker and St. Andrews exchanged runs in the fourth, with the Knights run coming off a solo blast from designated hitter Josh Axelsen (St. Charles, Ill.) off the left field wall, but the Cobras still held a three run lead at 12-9. The fifth and sixth innings were scoreless and both teams traded runs again in the seventh and then were scoreless in the eighth.
Then came the ninth inning, where the Knights posted five runs on six hits to take a 15-13 lead. It looked like St. Andrews might have the momentum to take home the win, but Coker was not ready to go down just yet. The Cobras took advantage of a hit batsman, two walks, two passed balls and an RBI ground out to score two runs and knot the game at 15 apiece.
A scoreless tenth brought about the eleventh inning and Coker senior Justin Collier (Laurens, S.C.) rose to the challenge on the mound and sat down the Knights in order, including back-to-back strike outs to end the inning and bring the Cobras to the plate. Then it was up the Coker hitters. Brinley Griffin (Port St. John, Fla.) led off the inning by getting on after an error by the Knight’s first baseman that let him advance all the way to second. Then a line drive by Matthew Kearnes (Bay Shore, N.Y.) allowed Griffin to tag up and move to third and an RBI single by Jordan Buenting (Ankeny, Iowa) brought Griffin home and gave Coker the win.
Collier (1-0) earned the winning throwing two and two-thirds innings allowing just three hits with three strikeouts, while holding the Knights scoreless. Even though he did not get a decision, it was Witzel that allowed Coker to get back into the game; he threw 5.2 innings on the mound for the Cobras, allowing three runs on three hits with five strikeouts.
Kyle Tate (Gastonia, N.C.) (1-1) took the loss as he came on in relief, throwing two and a third innings allowing two runs on two hits with four walks.
At the plate, Buenting had four hits including a double, with two runs scored and he had the game winning RBI, while Drew Hardee (Rock Hill, S.C.) and Trevin Taber (Chesnee, S.C.) were each 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Kearnes also had two hits and two RBIs and Griffin and Matt Ammons (Chester, S.C.) each had a hit, two RBIs and three runs scored.
Leading the Knights at the plate was Samson Williams (Wilmington, N.C.) with three hits including a triple, three RBIs and three runs scored, while Daniel Oliver (Plymouth, N.C.) also had three hits with an RBI and two runs scored. Axelsen finished the game 2-for-5 with a home run, two RBIs and a run scored and Jeff Brothers was 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs.
Coker returns to the diamond on Tuesday when they travel to Beaufort, S.C. to take on USC-Beaufort. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.