Freshman right-hander Tyler Thornton threw eight shutout innings as College of Charleston captured the 2014 CAA Baseball Championship with a 6-4 victory over William & Mary on Saturday afternoon at Brooks Field.
The Cougars (41-17), who claimed the CAA title in their first year as a league member, will make their sixth appearance in the NCAA Baseball Championship next week. It’s only the second conference tournament title ever for CofC, and first since 2006. W&M ended its season with a 34-22 mark.
College of Charleston has now advanced to three NCAA Regionals in head coach Monte Lee’s six seasons at the helm.
“I’m so proud of this team and everything they accomplished this weekend,” Lee said. “We had some outstanding pitching performances, including another one from Tyler Thornton today. Our offense stepped up big during this tournament and we were able to put the pressure on William & Mary early on. When we can produce runs from all parts of the order like we did today, combined with our outstanding pitching staff, we can be very dangerous.”
Thornton allowed just four hits and tied a career high with eight strikeouts over his eight shutout innings to improve to 6-5. He retired 10 straight batters in the middle innings, starting with a key double play that ended a W&M threat in the fourth. Thornton recorded his seventh quality start of the season and the 31st quality start on the season for Charleston, second-most in program history.
Over the tournament’s three games, CofC posted a staff ERA of 2.00, limiting the high-powered William & Mary offense to just two earned runs in two games.
Offensively, CofC freshman first baseman Nick Pappas went 4-for-4 and scored three runs, while senior designated hitter Ben Boykin was 2-for-3 with three RBI’s. For the Tribe, Michael Katz and Charley Gould each were 2-for-4 and pinch hitter Devin White had a two-RBI double as part of a four-run W&M rally in the ninth.
After being limited to pair of hits over the first three innings by Tribe starter Bryson Kauhaahaa (1-3), CofC broke through in the fourth. Pappas drilled a leadoff double down the right-field line and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Welke. Boykin then lined a sharp single through a drawn-in infield to plate Pappas for a 1-0 lead.
The Cougars added another run in the fifth when second baseman Blake Butler lifted a ball over the left-field fence for his third homer of the season.
CofC extended its lead with a pair of runs in the sixth. Carl Wise and Pappas started the frame with back-to-back singles and moved into scoring position on another Welke sacrifice bunt. Boykin followed with a long drive to left that bounced off the top of the fence for a two-run double that made it 4-0.
The Cougars pushed the margin to 5-0 as Champ Rowland had a leadoff single and came home on Wise’s two-out single to left. CofC picked up its final run in the eighth when Pappas doubled and was able to come across on Morgan Phillips’ sacrifice fly.
W&M nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback in the ninth. Katz had a one-out single to right off Cougars’ closer Michael Hanzlik, Ryan Hissey walked and Gould singled to left to load the bases. Rowland was unable to handle a sharp grounder to short which allowed one run to score and another came across on a Kevin Casey groundout. Pinch hitter Devin White kept the rally going as he doubled to left center, cutting the deficit to 6-4 and putting the tying runs in scoring position. However, Hanzlik got Ryder Miconi to ground out to second to secure the victory.
Cougar freshman Bailey Ober was named the CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player after his complete-game victory over William & Mary on Friday. CofC’s Nick Pappas, Ben Boykin, Carl Wise and Tyler Thornton were all named to CAA All-Tournament team.
College of Charleston will learn of its NCAA Regional Selection on Monday during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. The show will be aired live on ESPNU at noon.