College of Charleston came from down 4-1 to rally against UNC-Wilmington with a four-run fifth inning to advance in the winner’s bracket of the 2014 CAA Tournament.
The Cougars (39-17) posted the school’s first baseball win in CAA Tournament play as Charleston joined the league for the 2013-14 athletics season. The host Seahawks will now have to win four games to take the conference title, while CofC faces William & Mary in the tournament semifinals tomorrow at noon.
Sophomore Taylor Clarke (10-3) became Charleston’s sixth 10-game winner and just the fourth different player to accomplish the feat. Matt Pegler won 10 games in 2012, while Ryan Johnson and Nick Chigges each had two 10-win seasons. Clarke went seven innings on Thursday, allowing four runs while striking out seven with just two walks.
Eric Bauer pitched a scoreless eighth inning and then Michael Hanzlik (14) tallied his 14th save with a perfect ninth inning. Hanzlik is just one save away from tying the school record for a single season (Brett Harker in 2005, Josh McLaughlin in 2006).
The Cougar offense was able to get to UNCW starter Jordan Ramsey (2-4) in a big fifth inning after Ramsey started the game by striking out seven batters and allowing just one run. However, the Cougars started the fifth with a base hit from Champ Rowland and RBI double from Blake Butler. After Brandon Murray reached on an infield single, Carl Wise hit a three-run homer to right-center field, giving Charleston a 5-4 lead.
“It was a huge energy boost for our team,” Wise said. “Just being able to advance in the winner’s bracket and get that first win was huge. We stressed how important it was to dig in against Ramsey and our offense did a good job in the second and third time through the lineup against him.”
Wise finished with two hits and three RBIs, including his third homer of the season and 51st RBI. Butler had two RBIs on two hits. Murray would double in the seventh inning and score his second run of the game for some insurance. The Cougars added another insurance run in the eighth inning after a leadoff triple from Brandon Glazer and an RBI sacrifice fly from Butler.
UNCW’s Corey Dick had a fast start for the Seahawks, hitting a two-out, two-run homer in the first inning and a two-out RBI single in the fifth. All of the Seahawks’ runs in the first and fifth innings came with two outs.
“We treated today as if it was essentially an elimination game,” head coach Monte Lee said. “We stressed this game all week and how we needed to do everything we could to win. Clarke went seven innings to help our bullpen and Bauer and Hanzlik performed well to finish the game. I was really proud of the way our offense responded today. We had to come from behind, and I thought the offense showed a lot of heart.”
UNCW had won the series against College of Charleston earlier in the season, including a win in Jordan Ramsey’s prior start.
The Cougars will face William & Mary at noon tomorrow from Brooks Field. The winner will advance to the CAA title game on Saturday, while the loser will have to win a later game on Friday to advance.