Timely hitting powers Charleston past Long Beach State, into regional final

Blake Butler scored two runs for the Cougars in their 6-3 win over Long Beach State. Photo courtesy of CofCSports.com.

Blake Butler scored two runs for the Cougars in their 6-3 win over Long Beach State.
Photo courtesy of CofCSports.com.

In a true test of muscle vs. speed, the Cougars’ powerful bats have them one win away from their second-ever NCAA Super Regional berth.

The College of Charleston used a big sixth inning homer from Ben Boykin to push past Long Beach State, 6-3, on Saturday night in the winner’s bracket of the NCAA Baseball Regional in Gainesville, Fla.

Although not lights out, Charleston’s freshman ace, Bailey Ober, pitched effectively, going seven innings and giving up three runs on seven hits. He struggled a bit with runners on base, with his long delivery to the plate helping Long Beach swipe bases when the opportunity arose. LBSU, out of the Big West Conference, is known for their speed on the bases paths, stealing 67 bases coming into the night.

The Cougars’ offense helped Ober to his 10th win of the season by wearing out the Dirtbags’ undefeated senior pitcher, Josh Frye. After Frye allowed just one run on one hit through five innings, setting down 12 Cougars in a row at one point, Charleston jumped on the righty pitcher in the sixth inning with LBSU leading 2-1.

After walking Blake Butler to lead off the inning, Frye gave up a double to Brandon Murray to put runners on second and third with no outs. Carl Wise followed Murray with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at two.¬†Frye then hit Nick Pappas with a pitch and committed a costly fielding error that scored a run for Charleston. The error kept the inning alive and set up Boykin’s home run that gave the Cougars a 5-2 lead.

Long Beach added a run in the seventh inning to cut the lead to 5-3.

Nathan Helvey relieved Ober in the eighth inning, pitching a 1-2-3 frame that included a strikeout.

Charleston added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Pappas launched a solo home run to right field to extend the lead to 6-3. Boykin and Pappas’ home runs were the first two long balls hit in the Gainesville regional.

The Cougars’ closer, Michael Hanzlik, came on in the ninth for his second save in as many days. It was Hanzlik’s 16th save of the season, a College of Charleston record for saves in a single season.

“I thought their brand of baseball they played puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the team,” head coach Monte Lee said. “They run the bases very aggressively, they kept trying to steal bases. They play the short game very well and their starting pitcher was as good as advertised. I can’t say we necessarily outplayed them, but we capitalized on a couple mistakes and came up with a couple big home runs.”

With Ober’s 10th win, Charleston now has two starting pitchers with 10 victories for the first time in school history. Taylor Clarke recorded his 10th win in the CAA Tournament last week.

Charleston will now play in the regional final on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. They will face the winner of the afternoon game between North Carolina and Long Beach. Because the Cougars are undefeated so far, they will get two shots to win one game in double elimination format, with the second game scheduled for Monday evening if necessary. Sunday night’s game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN3 and locally on 1450 AM radio.

Tyler Thorton (6-5, 3.13 ERA) is the projected starter for the Cougars on Sunday night. Thornton is coming off a victory in the CAA Championship game one week ago against William & Mary.

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