Tuesday, June 3, 2014
College of Charleston baseball coach Monte Lee knew it'd be a challenge, but he was always confident in his team.
The No. 4 seed in a regional with Florida, North Carolina and Long Beach State, the Cougars entered as underdogs and battled their way out as champions.
College of Charleston (44-17) grabbed three wins in four days, including a 4-2 win over Long Beach State Monday, to claim the Gainesville Regional title and advance to the NCAA Super Regionals for just the second time in program history.
The Cougars are the only No. 4 seed left in the round of 16 and just the fourth No. 4 seed to advance to a super regional in the past 15 years. They'll face Texas Tech in a best-of-three series beginning either Friday or Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.
“I'm so proud of this group of young men,” Lee said. “I am humbled to get to coach this incredible group and excited that we get to keep playing baseball.”
Cougars freshman right-hander Tyler Thornton earned regional MVP honors, allowing two earned runs off four hits, one walk with four strikeouts in the complete-game win. Thornton gave up both runs in the first inning but allowed just two hits and no walks through the next eight.
The Cougars scored in the first inning in each of their three regional wins and are 30-2 this season when doing so. Andrew Wise delivered the prophetic first-inning run with a single up the gap to center to score Brandon Murray. Wise finished 2 for 4 on the day with the RBI.
“To come here as a four seed and go undefeated, it's awesome,” Wise said. “It's definitely an experience I'll never forget.”
Long Beach (34-26) countered with two runs in the bottom frame as Richard Prigatano doubled off the left-field wall and Johnny Bekakis lined a single off Thorton's arm.
Wise helped the Cougars tie the game in the third, reaching on an infield error while Blake Butler scored from third.
The Cougars ended Long Beach starter Nick Sabo's day in the fourth inning at 62 pitches. Sabo suffered the loss, allowing four runs, three earned off two hits, two walks and two strikeouts.
Morgan Phillips hit a sacrifice fly into foul territory to bring home Ryan Welke in the first at-bat after the pitching change. Ben Boykin scored off a wild pitch in the next at-bat to give the Cougars a two-run lead that'd be enough with Thorton dealing on the mound.
Phillips, Boykin, Murray and Thornton were all named to the Gainesville All-Regional team. The Cougars head to Lubbock, winners of 10 of their last 11 games, with a six-game winning streak intact and an opportunity for a bid to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
“They are a special team to coach and they have been having so much fun the last couple of weeks,” Lee said. “We have been playing loose and scoring early.”