Freshman right-hander Bailey Ober threw a complete-game, five-hitter as second-seeded College of Charleston advanced to the title game of the CAA Baseball Championship with a 3-1 triumph over top-seeded William & Mary on Friday afternoon at Brooks Field.
The Cougars (40-17) will play for the CAA championship at 1 p.m. on Saturday, while the Tribe (33-21) returns to action at 7 p.m. tonight in an elimination game against either No. 3 UNCW or No. 4 Delaware. Charleston will then play the winner of that game tomorrow with two chances to win once.
Ober, the CAA Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-conference honoree, needed only 95 pitches to post his second complete game of the year. He retired W&M, one of the nation’s top offensive teams, in order five times and registered four strikeouts with no walks. He was the only pitcher all season to defeat William & Mary twice.
A native of Huntersville, N.C., Ober improved to 9-2 with the victory and lowered his league-leading ERA to 1.37, which leads all NCAA freshmen. Ober has led the conference nearly all season in ERA, WHIP (.850) and opposing batting average (.183). Ober’s season ERA currently ranks second all-time at CofC behind Josh McLaughlin’s 1.27 ERA out of the bullpen in 2006. It is currently the best season ERA for any starting pitcher at College of Charleston.
He has now made 10 quality starts on the season as the Cougars registered their 30th quality start as a pitching staff, second-most all time. Ober’s complete game was the first in a conference tournament for the Cougars since 2008 when Jesse Simpson went the distance against Western Carolina.
“After we got the two early runs, I just went in there and tried to execute every pitch,” Ober said. “Our defense played really well today and getting ahead of hitters really helped. You try to race to two strikes as a hitter and really pound the zone. The motto for us as pitchers is just to keep attacking.”
The 2008 season was also the last time that College of Charleston advanced to a conference tournament title game, losing to Elon that season in the SoCon title match. The Cougars won their only conference tournament banner in 2006 with a win over The Citadel.
College of Charleston has now reached 40 wins in a season for the fifth time in program history. The Cougars advanced to NCAA Regionals on the previous four occasions.
“Offensively, I thought we’ve been very good these past two games,” head coach Monte Lee said. “Even though we only scored two runs today, I thought we took some good swings and had some good approaches. Bailey Ober did what Bailey Ober does. He shut down one of the best offenses in the country, and I think there’s a reason why he’s the best pitcher in this conference. Our guys are loose and having fun together. I’m very proud of them right now.”
CofC jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when freshman first baseman Nick Pappas led off the frame with a line drive over the wall in right for his fourth homer of the year.
The Cougars tacked on another run in the third when Champ Rowland doubled to left to open the inning. Blake Butler followed with an RBI single to right center that brought Rowland home. It marked the second run for Rowland and third RBI for Butler in this tournament. Rowland has tallied four hits in eight at-bats in two games.
CofC used the long ball once again to increase its advantage to 3-0 in the fifth when senior Brandon Murray, who was playing in just his fifth game after missing six weeks with a broken forearm, smacked an opposite field homer to left center. The homer was his sixth of the year and 28th of his career, ranking seventh all-time at College of Charleston.
William & Mary, which didn’t get its first hit until the fourth inning, finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth. Sophomore outfielder Josh Smith, who smacked a grand slam in Thursday’s win over Delaware, led off the frame with a solo shot to left to make it 3-1. However, the Tribe would only manage three singles off Ober over the final four innings and no one reached second base.
Rowland and Brandon Glazer each went 2-for-4 to pace CofC offensively. No Tribe player had more than one hit in the contest.
Senior John Sheehan (5-6) took the loss for W&M after giving up three runs on seven hits over six innings. Joseph Gaouette threw three shutout innings out of the Tribe bullpen.