No. 18 CofC Baseball Wins CAA Regular-Season Crown with Series Sweep
MT. PLEASANT, SC - No. 18 College of Charleston baseball crowned itself Colonial Athletic Association regular-season champions with an 11-7, sweep-capping victory over UNCW on Sunday at Patriots Point.
Charleston (38-10, 19-2 CAA) champions the league's regular season with its fifth CAA series sweep of the season, and seventh CAA series victory in as many opportunities. CofC moves four games ahead of second-place UNCW (33-15, 15-6 CAA) and the rest of the league with only three league games remaining.
"I'm very proud of our guys," said head coach Monte Lee. "More than anything else, I am proud of the consistency of this ball club and how we find ways to win ball games. We've done it with pitching and defense, and obviously we can do it with a lot of offense. In game three of the series, sometimes you're depleted from a pitching standpoint and we struggled right of out the gate, but we found a way to bounce back and score runs. It seems like someone steps up out of our bullpen every single game, and this time it was Carter Love. He threw 80-plus pitches and kept us in the ball game long enough to score some runs.
"All season long we've competed and been consistent. We haven't gotten too high or too low on ourselves. These guys play the game the right way; they have fun; and they don't put too much pressure on themselves. I'm very proud of them, and they're very deserving of their accomplishments."
The Cougars overcame five UNCW runs in the first two innings, leaning on freshman Carter Love who provided 5.1 innings of one-run baseball to ultimately earn the win. After the UNCW bats opened with two runs in the first and three more in the second, Love entered and minimized the damage in the third, and then hung up four scoreless innings.
The bats did the rest, led by Blake Butler who went 3-for-5 with two homeruns, three RBIs, and three runs scored. For the second time this season, Butler provided an in-the-park and over-the-fence homerun in the same game.
"This is just a step in the process for us," said Butler. "We have a lot of veteran guys on this team, and they understand that. This was a goal of ours, to win the conference, but we have bigger goals to come. We are proud of what we've done, and we all have some proud moms on Mothers' Day."
Nick Pappas was also 3-for-5 with three RBIs, while leadoff Ryan Brown was 2-for-3 with a homerun, double, and walk, adding to two RBIs and a run scored.
UNCW opened with singles sandwiched around a walk to plate a run before recording an out, and added another single later in the first to take a 3-0 lead.
The Cougars ebbed the momentum and plated three runs to snatch the lead in the bottom half of the first inning, ignited by Brown homering to right as the first Cougar hitter to step into the batter's box. Alex Pastorius and Carl Wise drew back-to-back walks, and Pappas doubled down the right field line to score both runs.
UNCW took the lead back right away, taking advantage of a Cougar fielding error to start the second and following with two doubles and a triple to take a 5-3 lead. Love entered to minimize the damage, and the Cougar run support followed in the form of a six-run third inning.
Charleston batted around in the inning, which was highlighted by a two-run homer by Butler and six total hits. After the Butler blast, Erven Roper, Champ Rowland, Brown, and Pastorius all picked up RBIs to give the Cougars a 9-5 lead.
After Love punctuated the rally with a three-up, three-down frame in the top of the fourth, the Cougars picked up where they left off in the bottom, plating a run on back-to-back singles by Butler and Pappas in the first at bats of the inning.
Butler took another trip around the bases with his in-the-park homerun in the sixth, giving the Cougars an 11-5 lead. He sent the first pitch of the inning slicing towards the corner in right field, extending beyond the reach of the right fielder and off the base of the wall. Butler sprinted out of the box and never hesitated around third, before sliding in safely ahead of the relay throw to the plate.
The Seahawks managed two runs on doubles by Gavin Stupienski and Terence Connelly in the seventh, but Chase Henry sealed the win from there, pitching 2.2 scoreless innings. Henry struck out five and allowed just two hits.
The Cougars remain home to host crosstown rival Charleston Southern on Tuesday at Patriots Point, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Cougars were once again ranked in all five polls recognized by the NCAA, ranking as high as No. 18 according to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and USA Today Coaches Poll. Charleston was ranked No. 19 by both Baseball America and D1Baseball, and No. 20 by Collegiate Baseball.
The Cougars clinched their fifth-ever regular season conference championship (first in the CAA), and first overall since 2012.
The Cougars batted .361 (13-for-16) on the day, improving upon their batting average which entered the weekend ranked fifth in the nation.
CofC reached its leadoff in 4-of-8 offensive innings, and batted .350 (7-for-20) with runners on base and .385 (5-for-13) with runners in scoring position.
The game marked the 17th multiple-homerun game for the Cougars, with CofC going 16-1 when hitting more than one homer.
The Cougars improve to 33-0 when leading after the sixth inning and 35-0 when leading after the seventh.
The Cougars celebrated Senior Day prior to the game, and paid honor to Devon Reed, Champ Rowland, Josh Tant, Chase Henry, Brandon Glazer, Chase Henry, and Luke Munson.