While College of Charleston students enjoyed their week of freedom, Cougar baseball was hard at work to make their school proud.
The string of games started on Friday, March 2nd, as the team began a three game stretch against SoCon rival Elon.
Josh Renfro (Bradenton, FL) set up the 7-1 win for the Cougars by only allowing six hits across his six innings. Two of those hits came in the first inning, as Elon attempted to get on the board. The College only responded with a hit, with Brandon Murray (Nassau, Bahamas) managing to get on base after a single. Murray was followed by two subsequent strikeouts, leaving the score 0-0 going into the second. Renfro once again kept Elon off the board, allowing the Cougars another chance at taking the first lead. One hit was all that was needed in this inning, as Cody Martin’s (Toccoa, GA) home run allowed the team to come out of the second 1-0.
The top of the third followed with Elon not managing a single hit, but this was not the case for the College. A single by Jimmy Holton (West Palm Beach, FL) and Murray, followed by a fielder’s choice to Marty Gantt (North Augusta, GA) and a walk by Daniel Aldrich (Mt. Pleasant, SC) allowed for the first of four runs to be scored in the bottom of the third. A double by Rob Harding (Columbia, SC) allowed not only Murray and Gantt in, but ran in Aldrich as well, marking the score 5-0. A subsequent double by Martin ran Harding in and ended the scoring at 7-0 for the inning.
The fourth inning passed quietly with a hit for Elon and none for the College. The team added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth, a home run from Murray to thank for an increased margin on the board, making it 7-0 going into the sixth. The sixth and seventh inning saw both teams making few to no hits, with Drew Freie (Wilton, IA) coming in for Renfro in the seventh. Elon made their one and only run of the night with a homer by Koster, ending the scoring of the game with 7-1.
Rain forced the next two games to be played as a double header. Though the Cougars triumphed in a big way on Friday night, that momentum was not enough to carry them through Sunday’s games.
Christian Powell (Greenwood, SC) headed off the pitching for the game, and managed to stave off the Phoenixes by allowing only one hit in the top of the first. Once again, the Cougars made it onto the board first, thanks to a double by Harding and a single by Aldrich to drive him in. The College managed to hold on to that lead until the top of the third, when Elon tied it up thanks to an unearned run. The Cougars weren’t able to immediately reciprocate, and Elon rode their comeback into the fourth, four hits and two errors allowing them three runs across the inning. Four innings followed as the College desperately tried to make up the difference in the 4-1 score. The chance nearly came at the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Welke (Tallahassee, FL), Bradley Goodson (Jacksonville, FL), and Harding filled the diamond, and Gantt struck out looking, leaving the bases loaded with one out. A walk by Aldrich allowed for Welke to come in, making the score 4-2 and still just one out. Murray then struck out swinging. Tyler Jackson (Bishopville, SC) came in for Brandon Glazer (Hagerstown, MD), and managed a hit that was very nearly a game winning home run, only to be caught by the Phoenixes, ending the game 4-2 in favor of Elon.
Matt Pegler (Greenville, SC) opened up the pitching for the Cougars in game two on Sunday. For the third straight game, Elon was kept at bay in the early innings, only being allowed one hit across them. The College made the first runs of the game in bottom of the third, with a sacrifice fly by Murray driving in Heidt. A fielder’s choice then pushed Goodson home, ending the scoring of the inning with the Cougars leading 2-0.
A hit by pitch allowed Elon to get the first run of the game, with a steal, a sacrifice bunt, and a single driving in a Phoenix hitter in the sixth. Elon would go on to tie up the game in the top of the eighth with a run making the score 2-2. This score remained steadfast all the way through the bottom of the ninth, prompting an extra inning.
A home run for Elon is what won the game in the top of the tenth, with the game finishing 3-2 and the Cougars going 1-2 in the SoCon division and 7-3 overall.
Despite these tough loses, the team powered ahead to take on Toledo on Tuesday, Mar 6th. Griffin Jones (Shelby Township, MI) started for the first time in his career at CofC, and he did the Cougars proud.
The first five innings of the game saw only one hit a piece for each of the teams. The top of the sixth followed in much this fashion as Kyle Owings (Gilbert, SC) came in for Jones at the mound. The same can’t be said for the Cougars however, who earned their win in the bottom of the sixth. A triple by Gantt brought in Gunnar Heidt (Garden City, SC) and Goodson, securing the 2-0 score that would win the game.
Though the team lost their NCAA ranking after their losses to Elon, with this game, the team managed a .165 opponent batting average, making them second in the nation for the mark.
Wednesday’s game against Winthrop was no more a match for the Cougars than Toledo. The team made sure to take their lead early, scoring a run in the top of the first with a solo home run by Murray. Pitcher Ryan West (Glen Allen, VA) allowed the Eagles only one hit across the first two innings, allowing the Cougars to expand upon their lead in the top of the third after a double by Martin earned the team another run.
Winthrop finally managed to get themselves on the board with a run in the bottom of the third, making the score 2-1. This close game didn’t last long though, as a two run 5th inning for the Cougars heightened their lead further. The eagles reciprocated this in the sixth with two runs of their own, bringing the score to 4-3 and making it close once again. While that would be the last of the runs for Winthrop, the Cougars still had some hits in them, and a sacrifice fly by Aldrich in the 7th and a single by Harding in the 9th made for a 6-3 win.
As the spring break drew to a close, the Cougars headed to the road for their next SoCon, this time facing off against Furman. The Cougars took a vicious victory on Friday night, managing 14 runs. Three hits, a walk, and two fielder’s choices allowed the Cougars to immediately take a lead, going into the second inning 3-0. A ground out by Harding in the second, a homer by Martin in the third, and a fielding error to Harding in the fourth kept the score climbing, reaching 6-0 before the Paladins found their way onto the score board. Five hits resulted in three runs for the team, cutting the Cougars’ lead in half. A single by Goodson in the top of the fifth brought the score up further to 7-3, but Furman continued their assault on the lead by managing another two runs in the bottom of the fifth. A dropped ball in the sixth allowed Gantt’s single to drive in two runners. A single by Martin managed to bring in two runners as well, making the score 11-5 as the top of the sixth came to a close. The score board remained untouched throughout the bottom of the sixth and the entirety of the seventh, but the Cougars were not done scoring.
A hit by pitch with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth managed to give the Cougars another run, with a single by Glazer bringing in two runner and raising the score 14-5. Furman managed to get one more on the board in the bottom of the eighth, but they couldn’t muster a comeback with the game ultimately finishing 14-6.
Despite Friday’s explosive win over Furman, Saturday’s match was a challenge, and was very nearly lost to the Paladins. Powell managed to hold of Furman for eight innings as the College built their lead. The fourth inning saw the first run of the game going to the Cougars after a solo home run by Murray. This unchallenged lead climbed in the sixth with a single by Jackson driving in Glazer. A single by Harding brought in a runner in the seventh, and a walk by Goodson brought in Martin in the ninth, making the lead 4-0 going into the bottom of the ninth.
That’s when the Paladins decided it was time to step up their game. As Peterson came in for Powell, Furman managed three runs in what was very nearly an upset of a game. The Cougars managed to hold them off in the nick of time, and the game finished 4-3 to the Cougars.
After a very near loss, the Cougars were taking no chances on Sunday, though Furman still managed to make it a close game. In this high scoring game, it was Furman to take the first run in the bottom of the first. Their lead lasted all the way through the top of the fourth, where CofC managed two runs of their own, with a solo home run by Murray and a double driving in Aldrich and bringing the score 2-1. The College built upon this with a solo homer by Welke in the fifth. The Paladins managed to tie up the game 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of singles driving two players in. The Cougars responded with two runs of their own in the top of the sixth, and tacked on another three in the seventh with a single by Martin bringing in one and a single by Goodson bringing in two, raising the score 8-3. Though this would have once seemed a safe lead, the Cougars knew better this time, and they continued to build their score. Furman answered the College’s growing lead with two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
The eighth inning saw an explosion of runs, with the Cougars managing five in the top. A triple by Aldrich brought in Murray, a fielder’s choice brought in Gantt, and a three run homer by Goodson allowed the Cougars to gain another five runs, bring the score to 13-3.
Despite the ten run lead, Furman wasn’t finished putting on the pressure, and their attempt at an upset was very nearly successful, just as with Saturday’s game. The Paladins managed to score eight runs in the bottom of the eighth, bring the score to 13-11. Thought the Cougars were unable to advance their lead any further in the top of the ninth, Peterson was able to hold them off and get the save.
The Cougars advance to 4-2 in the SoCon after this weekend’s sweep, and 12-3 overall. The team plays Tuesday at 6pm at Patriots Point against UNC-Wilmington, with Wednesday’s game against Coastal Carolina away. The next SoCon series will take place this weekend at Patriots Point against Wofford, with a first pitch time of 6pm.