No. 15 College of Charleston baseball downed Northeastern, 12-6, to pick up their 40th win of the season and even their Colonial Athletic Association series at Friedman Diamond on Friday afternoon.
Charleston (40-11, 20-3 CAA) strings together 40-win seasons for the first time since the 2005-06 seasons, and pitching ace Taylor Clarke added to his record-breaking season with his 12th victory of the season, tying the program's season-single record.
Clarke (12-1) offered his eighth consecutive quality start, and ties for the most wins nationally in addition to becoming CofC's second-ever 12-game winner and first since Ryan Johnson in 2004. He finished Friday with one run on four hits while striking out nine in 6.0 innings pitched.
The middle of the Cougar lineup was prolific, as all 12 RBIs came from hitters two through five in the order. Alex Pastorius and Blake Butler both homered on the day, and joined Nick Pappas with three RBIs apiece. Eight different Cougars recorded a hit in the affair.
“We swung the bats a lot better today,” said head coach Monte Lee. “We got it going early and took a lead, and Taylor Clarke was really strong in protecting that lead. We kept finding ways to score runs in the second half of the ball game, and it's a good win to get back in the series.”
Clarke's lone blemish was a first-inning solo shot given up to NU slugger Rob Fonseca, the Huskies' walkoff homerun hero from game one, who caught up with a Clarke fastball in the first, and sailed his 14th of the year out of the park to tie for the CAA lead.
The Cougars trailed in the early frames as NU starter James Mulry weathered some control issues in the third, after issuing free passes to Pastorius (walk) and Carl Wise (hit by pitch). Butler punished his inconsistency by belting a towering shot out to center, his team-best 12th of the year, to put CofC up 3-1.
CofC added a run in the fifth with a leadoff walk by Butler and a double by Pappas, who leads the CAA in two-baggers this season. That put runners in scoring position for Bradley Jones, who delivered Butler to the plate with an RBI bounce out to the right side.
Charleston opened the sixth with back-to-back singles by Champ Rowland and Ryan Brown, and Wise delivered both to the plate with a bases-clearing double into the gap in right center.
After giving up the homer in the first inning, Clarke settled in and dealt five scoreless innings to round out his day. He faced the minimum in the second and third, and stranded runners in scoring position with inning-ending strikeouts in the fourth and sixth innings.
A two-out Cougar throwing error extended the seventh inning, and eventually gave way to an unearned run on an RBI single by Maxwell Burt, cutting the Cougar lead to 6-2.
CofC took the run back in the next half inning, as Pastorius led off the eighth with a triple, and held at third until scoring on a two-out RBI single by Pappas.
The Cougars batted around in the ninth, ultimately scoring five runs on four hits and three walks in the inning. All runs were scored with two outs, with three coming on a three-run bomb by Pastorius, and two more on a bases-clearing double by Pappas.
The extra runs almost became critical, as a three-run Michael Foster homer culminated a four-run rally which chipped into the Cougar lead in the bottom of the ninth, but the Huskies would get no closer.
The rubber game is set to be played at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning, and CofC's Brandon Glazer will get the start on the mound.
The Cougars are ranked in all five polls recognized by the NCAA, climbing as high as No. 15 according to the NCBWA. The Cougars are ranked No. 18 by both Baseball America and D1Baseball, No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and No. 20 by Collegiate Baseball.
The Cougars staved off back-to-back losses, which they haven't suffered since opening weekend at then-ranked No. 10 South Carolina.
The Cougars improve to 35-0 when leading after the sixth inning and 37-0 when leading after the seventh.
In Charleston's 40 wins this season, The College has rallied for innings of three or more runs 51 times. In their 11 losses, the Cougars have produced just one inning of three runs or more.
The game was the Cougars' 19th multiple-homerun game of the season. The Cougars improved to 18-1 on those occasions.
With five RBIs between them in the game, Blake Butler and Carl Wise now tie for the CAA lead with 60 RBIs apiece on the year.
The Cougars produced back-to-back 40 win seasons for the first time since winning 48 games in 2005 and 46 in 2006.
In addition Taylor Clarke being tied for the program record for wins, he continues to add to his single-season record for strikeouts. He now has 126 on the year.