Austin Pritcher made his final Riley Park appearance a memorable one, allowing six hits and blanking College of Charleston over the final seven innings in a 7-1 victory over the Cougars on Friday afternoon.
With the win, the Bulldogs (29-21, 16-9 SoCon) kept their hold on second place in the SoCon and snapped a six-game regular season losing streak to the Cougars. College of Charleston dropped to 26-23 and 14-10 in the conference. The series continues with games on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
Pritcher (7-2) threw his second complete game of the season and won his fourth straight decision while lowering his ERA to a Southern Conference-leading 2.40. The senior right hander walked one and struck out four to earn his 21st career victory, the most by any active SoCon pitcher.
Should Pritcher finish first in the conference in ERA, he will become the 10th different Bulldog pitcher to lead the league in that category since Fred Jordan became head coach in 1992. Pritcher has not lost in his last six starts and improved his standing as a leading candidate for SoCon Pitcher of the Year.
The Bulldogs had 13 hits including three by Mason Davis, whose bunt single ignited a two-run third that gave The Citadel the lead for good. Joe Jackson, Calvin Orth and Bret Hines added a pair of singles, with Orth extending his hitting streak to 14 games, the longest by a Bulldog this season.
Jake Zokan, who entered the game second only to Pritcher in the SoCon ERA race, allowed eight hits and four runs before exiting after hitting Jackson with a pitch to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Zokan dropped to 3-2 on the year.
College of Charleston took a 1-0 lead in the second on a double by Brandon Murray and sacrifice bunts by Cody Martin and Bradley Goodson. The Cougars got hits in each of the next five innings, but Pritcher induced three double play grounders and another runner was caught stealing to keep the visitors off the scoreboard.
Davis and Hughston Armstrong had bunt singles with one out in the third. Jackson followed with a ground single to right to score Davis, and Armstrong stole third before coming across on a ground out off the bat of Bo Thompson.
Jackson raised his batting average to .355 and the RBI was his team-leading 51st of the season. Armstrong's hit enabled him to extend his streak of consecutive games reaching base by a hit, walk or hit by pitch to a career-long 28 games.
Orth led off the fourth with a single, moved to third on a base hit by Hines and came across when a blooper by Mason fell just behind the mound and past the outstretched reach of Zokan. Stokes doubled in two runs and two more scored on a throwing error by catcher Ryan Welke in a four-run Bulldog fifth that blew the game open.
Stokes has now driven in at least one run in 16 of the past 21 games with a total of 30 over that stretch. The sophomore shortstop has 47 on the year, second on the team only to Jackson, after knocking in only five as a freshman a year ago.
The Bulldogs only need one more win to reach 30 for the 18th time in 22 years under Jordan and can earn their 20th victory at Riley Park for the 14th time in 16 full seasons at the facility with a victory over the Cougars either Saturday or Sunday.