Showing the rest of the field that they may have been under-seeded, No. 4 College of Charleston downed No. 2 Long Beach State, 4-2, to sweep their way through Gainesville Regional in the first round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
Frequently heralded as the most talented four seed among the 16 regions, Charleston used a terrific performance from All-CAA Rookie Team selection, Tyler Thorton, to propel themselves to their second-ever berth into the Super Regional round. They are the only four seed to advance to the round of 16 in 2014 and just the fourth No.4 seed to win a regional since 1999.
Thornton pitched a complete game, only giving up four hits while striking out four. He allowed two runs in the first inning, but stranded runners on first and third to get himself out of the inning. The freshman righty settled in after that, putting down 11 of the next 12 batters he faced. Thornton was named the regional MVP after the game for his outstanding performance.
The Cougars’ offense gave Thornton support, scoring a run in the first inning for the third consecutive game thanks to an RBI single from Carl Wise. After Blake Butler doubled in the third, they added a run on a fielding error by LBSU on a hard hit Wise ground ball to tie the score at two.
Charleston manufactured two runs in the fourth inning by pressuring Long Beach starter, Nick Sabo. Sabo walked two batters that set up a sacrifice fly RBI from Morgan Phillips, followed by a wild pitch that scored Ben Boykin from third. Sabo was pulled from the game after failing to record an out in the inning.
The Dirtbags’ bullpen did a good job settling the Charleston offense down, giving up just four hits and one walk while striking out four, but the four runs were all the Cougars would need with Thornton dealing on the mound.
Thornton was aided by his defense in the seventh inning. After a leadoff single, the Cougars turned a beautiful 6-4-3 double play against the speedy LBSU runners to kill any threat by the Dirtbags.
Having thrown 104 pitches heading into the ninth inning, head coach Monte Lee elected to keep Thornton in the ballgame instead of calling on closer Michael Hanzlik. Thornton did not disappoint, setting down Long Beach in order to clinch a monumental win for Charleston.
“I don’t know how to describe it. We are just so excited,” Lee told ESPN after the game. “Our players showed up every single day and played as hard as they could and we found a way to win this ballgame. Tyler Thornton was outstanding and we were able to score some runs early in the ballgame and keep the pressure on Long Beach.”
The Cougars only appearance in the Super Regional round came in 2006, when Charleston went undefeated the Lexington Regional before falling to Georgia Tech.
Thornton, Phillips, Boykin and Brandon Murray were named to the All-Regional team after the game as well.
Charleston (44-17) will now face Texas Tech (43-18) in the Super Regional next Saturday at 1 p.m.
TTU went 3-1 in the Coral Gables Regional, defeating one seed Miami in the title game to advance. They were ranked No. 23 in the May 26 USA Today coaches’ poll and NCBWA writers’ poll. Texas Tech has never been to a Super Regional in school history.
A best of three series between the Cougars and the Red Raiders will determine who advances into the eight-team College World Series. Game two will be on Sunday at 3 p.m. and game three, if necessary, will be on Monday at 1 p.m. All three games will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU/ESPN2 and locally on ESPN 910 radio.