Charleston wins CAA Baseball Championship, earns automatic NCAA Tournament berth

Charleston won their first conference title since 2006 in their first year in the CAA. Photo courtesy of CAASports.com.

Charleston won their first conference title since 2006 in their first year in the CAA.
Photo courtesy of CAASports.com.

For the sixth time in school history, the College of Charleston is heading to the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

With a 6-4 win over William & Mary, the Cougars were crowned CAA Champions on Saturday afternoon in Wilmington, N.C.

The undisputed theme of the Cougars’ undefeated run through the tournament was stellar pitching. Following in the footsteps of Taylor Clarke on Thursday and Bailey Ober on Friday, Tyler Thorton threw eight innings of shutout ball, giving up just four hits and striking out a career-high tying eight batters. He retired 10 straight batters at one point, spanning the fourth through seventh inning.

The Charleston offense gave Thornton plenty of support throughout the afternoon.

Ben Boykin got the scoring started for the Cougars in the fourth inning, singling home Nick Pappas after he led the inning off with a double.

Blake Butler sent a solo home run over the left field wall in the fifth inning, his third homer of the season, for Charleston’s second run of the game.

Boykin helped give the Cougars some breathing room in the sixth inning, knocking in a two-RBI double to extend the lead to 4-0.

Carl Wise singled home a run in the seventh inning, while Morgan Phillips added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

The Tribe made things interesting in the ninth inning, scoring four runs on Charleston closer Michael Hanzlik, but Hanzlik escaped the jam to save the game, and the championship, for the Cougars.

“I think [the win] is a testament to our starting pitching. They did what they have been doing all year. I don’t know if there is a program that has two freshmen that are pitching on the weekend who are as good as [Ober and Thornton]. These guys are true freshmen and they are pitching like juniors or seniors,” head coach Monte Lee said.

The offense was at its best as well during the Cougars’ tournament run. After hitting 29 homers through 55 games coming into the tournament, Charleston launched five home runs in three games en route to the title.

After the game, Thorton, Boykin, Pappas, and Wise were named to the All-Tournament Team. Ober was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for his complete game shutout of William & Mary in Friday’s semifinal round.

The conference title is Charleston’s first since winning the Southern Conference in 2006. The Cougars also won the Kentucky Regional in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, advancing to their only Super Regional in school history before falling to Georgia Tech.

Charleston holds a 9-10 record all-time in the NCAA Tournament, last appearing in 2012 when they went 1-2 in the Gainesville Regional.

“We’ve been in this situation before. My first time [in the tournament] was in 2010 as an at-large bid and then in 2012 we were right on the bubble as an at-large,” Lee said. “You have to go earn this thing, we weren’t going to be able to sit around and see if we would get in like the other times we’ve made it in. This is more special than getting in as an at-large bid because our guys earned this. They came on the road in the conference tournament, in our first year in the CAA, and we did exactly what we needed to do to win.”

The Cougars will now await their tournament destination and seeding from the NCAA selection committee, which will be announced on Monday at noon on ESPNU.

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