Wednesday, June 4, 2014
College of Charleston baseball is sticking to the plan.
Staying with what’s worked has earned the Cougars a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament championship and NCAA regional title in the past two weeks. Headed into the super regionals against Texas Tech this weekend, C of C head coach Monte Lee says consistency is key, and for his team that means playing loose, having fun and scoring early.
“We’re going to try to be as consistent as we can,” Lee said. “We’re going to practice the same way we did for the CAA tournament, the same way we did for this regional. We’re going to do the exact same thing to the best of our ability going into the super regional.”
Lee’s former boss, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner, echoed his protégé’s sentiment as the two discussed the Cougars’ upcoming series. Tanner knows plenty about winning at the super regionals. As head coach of USC, he guided the Gamecocks to six College World Series appearances with Lee was an assistant on five of those teams.
“Ray’s advice at this point in the season is just to be as loose as possible,” Lee said. “The more loose your team can be, the lighter practices can be, the better off you’re going to be. If you try to make them press at this time of the year, it can backfire on you.”
The Cougars pitching staff has led the way lately and seems to be peaking at the perfect time. Lee says the Cougars are likely to continue to ride the three-man rotation in the order that got them there.
Sophomore right-hander Taylor Clarke is a semifinalist for the Greg Olson Breakout Player of the Year Award and likely gets the start Saturday. In the No. 2 slot, freshman right-hander Bailey Ober was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. There’s been few better at No. 3 than freshman right-hander Tyler Thorton who picked up close-out wins in the CAA tournament and Gainesville regional and was named regional MVP.
“(The rotation) has worked all year long for us and there’s no need to change now,” Lee said. “You don’t envision a freshman being able to do that as consistently well as (Thorton) and Bailey have done. It’s just been really impressive to watch.”
College of Charleston and Texas Tech kick off their best-of-three series on ESPNU Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Red Raiders’ Rip Griffin Park in Lubbock, Texas. The Cougars enter as winners of six straight, all road wins, and 10 of their last 11. For most of the team, it’ll be the biggest series of their career, in front of one of the largest crowds they’ve seen. Lee wants his players to enjoy the moment but says the Cougars are coming in confident and focused on earning a College World Series berth.
“I hope our guys are excited about getting the chance to play in a venue like this in a big-time moment in a nationally televised game,” Lee said. “It’s what every kid that comes and plays at a school like College of Charleston dreams about.
“We feel like with the way we can pitch and the way that we can defend, we can play with anybody. A four seed, a three, a two, a one ... We’re coming to win.”