CHARLESTON, SC - The College of Charleston will be traveling to Gainesville, Fla., to compete in the 2014 NCAA Gainesville Regional. The Cougars (41-17) are the No. 4 seed in the regional and will be joined by host Florida (40-21), third-seeded North Carolina (34-25) and second-seeded Long Beach State (32-24).
Regional play begins on Friday, May 30, as the Cougars take on the Gators at 7 p.m. (ET) at ESPN3. Florida is the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. UNC and LBSU will face off in the first game of the regional. With 41 wins, College of Charleston has more victories than every other team in the regional.
College of Charleston will be making its sixth regional appearance in the last 11 seasons, and third NCAA run in head coach Monte Lee's six seasons.
The Cougars and Gators have met twice before, with Florida winning both games in Gainesville in 2002. Charleston and North Carolina played a three-game series at Patriots Point to open the 2014 season with the Cougars winning two of three. CofC has never played Long Beach State in baseball.
The Cougars return to Gainesville for a regional after traveling there in 2012 as a No. 3 seed. That season, the Cougars lost to Georgia Tech, 8-4, before eliminating Bethune-Cookman, 8-2. In Sunday's elimination game, Charleston fought hard but could not overcome the Yellow Jackets in a 3-0 defeat. Florida eventually won the regional.
The Cougars earned an automatic bid to the tournament by winning the CAA Tournament in Charleston's first year in the league. The Cougars swept last week's tournament with a win over host UNCW and two wins over top-seeded offensive juggernaut William & Mary. The Tribe had entered the tournament averaging over eight runs per game, but CofC's dominant pitching held William & Mary to just one earned run in each game.
The tournament championship was just the second title all-time for Charleston, and first since 2006 when the Cougars won the Southern Conference Tournament Championship. That season, Charleston used a dominant pitching staff and clutch hitting to win the Lexington Regional and advance to the Atlanta Super Regional, marking CofC's deepest tournament run.
College of Charleston's 2014 squad has been defined by its youthful pitching staff. CofC's weekend rotation consists of a sophomore and two freshmen who have combined for an ERA of 2.38, ranking among the top 15 starting rotations in the country.
The pitching has been led by CAA Rookie of the Year and CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Bailey Ober, who sports a 1.37 ERA and .183 opposing batting average, ranking first among all NCAA freshman pitchers. Friday night starter Taylor Clarke is just the fourth CofC player to win 10 games in one season (10-3), while Sunday starter Tyler Thornton has 6-2 record, 1.88 ERA and 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio since entering the starting rotation in the middle of the season.
Carl Wise leads the offense with 52 RBIs and a .423 slugging percentage. Brandon Murray returned to the lineup after six weeks lost with a broken arm, knocking a team-best nine hits in the last six games. Nick Pappas and Ben Boykin each earned CAA All-Tournament Team honors with strong weekends in Wilmington.