Monarchs Baseball Drop Series Against Challenging #17 Coastal Carolina Team


Elena Harris

Freshman Alex Bouche looks on as his teammates react to the home run shot down left-field in game one against Coastal.

By Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor

It was quite the weekend at Bud Metheny Ballpark as the ODU baseball team hosted the 17th-ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in a Sun Belt series clash among two of the top four teams in the conference. Coming off a defeat against No. 9 East Carolina on the road earlier in the week, the Monarchs stood at 23-9 (8-4 Sun Belt), while Coastal came into the series with a 21-10 (9-3 Sun Belt) record. 

A big crowd was on hand for game one on Friday night, where the Monarchs looked to get ahead in the weekend series. However, the Chanticleers were the ones to strike first in the top of the first inning after a solo bomb went over the left-field wall. In the top of the second, Coastal tallied two more runs to extend their lead to 3-0 on three hits and an error to put the men in scoring position. The ODU offense didn’t start finding its rhythm until the bottom portion of the third inning. 

A fired-up ODU dugout celebrates after the home run shot over the left-field wall in game one against Coastal. (Elena Harris )

Junior Chris Dengler got the Monarchs on the board after hitting a solo home run over the left-field wall, but that wasn’t it. On the next at-bat, sophomore Luke Waters homered to left field as well, cutting the deficit to 3-2. Senior Thomas Wheeler got on base with a single up center field that was followed up by another Monarch home run from freshman Alex Bouche, giving them the 4-3 advantage. Later on in the inning, a pair of doubles from junior Kenny Levari and senior Tyler Wheeler pushed the ODU lead to 5-3.

In the top half of the fourth inning, the Coastal offense got a runner into scoring position to cut into the Monarchs’ deficit, but thanks to the pitching of sophomore Blake Morgan, he struck out the batter and got the pop-up to second base for the easy third out. It wasn’t until the fifth inning when Coastal would tie the game up at five, but that would not last for long as Bouche led off the bottom of the fifth with a single and eventually was brought home off a double down the right-field line from Jake Tricer, giving ODU the advantage. The Monarchs tallied another run to increase the lead to 7-5 before ending the fifth. 

In the top of the eighth inning, Coastal threatened again with runners on first and third base, but Dengler came in clutch with a diving stop that forced the out at second base to get out of the inning. In the top half of the ninth, the Chanticleers had runners in scoring position with one out, but graduate Robert Cook got the pop-up flyball and the strikeout to earn the victory for Old Dominion. 

Sophomore John Holobetz (2-1) was credited with the victory thanks to three scoreless innings tossed with only three hits, along with two walks and four strikeouts to account for. Cook earned his third save of the season with one hit and walk given up. Morgan finished the evening with five runs on six hits and four strikeouts in a 4.2-inning start. Levari scored twice off a home run and a double with one RBI in a 2-for-3 evening at the plate. Dengler finished 2-for-3 with a home run and a walk, as Bouche hit 2-for-5 with his two-run home run. Thomas Wheeler finished 2-for-5 with a double and a run, while his brother Tyler went 2-for-4 at the plate. 

Head coach Chris Finwood shared his thoughts on his team’s performance in game one, noting that it was one of the better performances for his team this season. 

“The energy was fantastic tonight,” Finwood stated. “Our competitive spirit was the best I’ve seen this year. That’s what it takes to beat a quality opponent.”

Sophomore Blake Morgan follows through with his pitch in game one against Coastal. (Elena Harris )

Going into game two of the series, the Monarchs were riding the momentum of Friday’s victory and Coastal came out with a sense of vengeance as they routed ODU on Saturday afternoon. 

The scoring didn’t start until the third inning, when Coastal jumped out to a 1-0 advantage thanks to a two-out solo home run. The game remained 1-0 until the bottom half of the fourth, when the Monarchs knotted things up at one as Ticer doubled into the right-field gap and Levari was then hit by the pitch. Tyler Wheeler hit a pop-up in front of home plate and it came off of the catcher’s glove, bringing Ticer in for the run. The 1-1 tie would not last long as Coastal got back ahead 2-1 with another solo-bomb over the left-field wall. Going into the top of the sixth inning, the Chanticleers were able to add onto their lead, bringing four runs over home plate in the inning. 

A solo home run and a three-run home run later in the inning put the Chanticleers ahead 6-1. In the eighth inning, Coastal added another run to their lead thanks to a pair of errors on ODU’s part. In the bottom half of the inning, Thomas Wheeler got on base with a double to left-center field. On the ensuing at-bat, junior Hunter Fitz-Gerald grounded out to second base, but Thomas continued to run home, which caught Coastal off guard and gave ODU their second run of the afternoon. From there, the Chanticleers put the nail in the coffin after scoring eight runs off of five hits in the top of the ninth inning. Coastal defeated Old Dominion 15-2 evening out the series at 1-1 with a rubber match on Sunday. 

Junior Sam Armstrong (6-1) received his first loss on the season after giving up four runs off of seven hits and three walks. In his 5.1 innings pitched, he struck out six batters. Ticer finished the day 1-for-3 with a double in the contest. Tyler Wheeler, Dengler and junior Josh Trujillo also went 1-for-3. Thomas finished the day 1-for-4 at the plate with his double and run scored. 

On Sunday, it was a winner-take-all for the weekend series. The ODU offense got the bats going first as Thomas Wheeler smashed the line-drive over the left-field wall in the bottom portion of the first inning, putting  them up 1-0. That one-run advantage did not last long, as Coastal fired back in the top of the second thanks to a pair of hits,  bringing in a runner to tie it up at one. The score remained tied until the bottom of the third inning, when Dengler hit a leadoff home run to put the Monarchs back out front 2-1. 

Junior Hunter Fitz-Gerald tags first base after the ground ball was hit in his direction in game one against Coastal. (Elena Harris )

The Chanticleers offense tallied another run in the top of the fourth to tie the game back up at two, and the score would remain that way until the extra innings portion of the ballgame. In the top of the tenth inning, Coastal smashed a pair of solo home runs that put them out ahead 4-2 in the contest. As the Monarchs were down to their final outs, Thomas Wheeler got on base after being walked on the full count. Fitz-Gerald hit a groundout to second base to advance Thomas 90 feet, but the ODU offense was unable to bring him in as Bouche and freshman Logan Duffy both struck out, giving Coastal the victory.

Cook (2-2) was credited with the defeat after giving up two runs on two hits and one walk and strikeout in 1.2 innings of relief. Junior Jacob Gomez held the Coastal offense to only two runs on four hits, three strikeouts and two walks in his second career start. Dengler finished the day 2-for-2 at the plate with a home run early on. Trujillo hit 2-for-4 and Thomas Wheeler went 1-for-3 with his home run and pair of walks. Fitz-Gerald went 1-for-4 at the plate. 

After the game, Finwood acknowledged that the pitching for Coastal was among the best that his team has seen all season and liked what he saw from his squad going forward. 

“It was a good ballgame and I thought we pitched really well. We had some chances and just couldn’t get a big hit,” Finwood stated. “I thought their bullpen arms were really the best we’ve seen this year. Guys fought hard and we just came up short. We’ll get back to work and get ready for a good week ahead with trips to VMI and App State.”

Next up for the Monarchs this week is a pair of games on the road. ODU will travel to Lexington, VA to play VMI on Wednesday, April 17, with first pitch slated for 6 p.m. They will then travel down to Boone, NC to face off with Appalachian State in another Sun Belt weekend series, with first pitch in game one on Friday, April 21 at 6 p.m. Game two is on Saturday, April 22 at 3 p.m., while game three will be a 1 p.m. start on Sunday, April 23.