For the second straight game, the College of Charleston bats were silent when they needed a big hit.
The Cougars were eliminated from the NCAA Baseball Tournament with a 1-0 loss to Texas Tech on Sunday afternoon, failing to score a run in either game against the Red Raiders in the Super Regional round.
Charleston got another outstanding performance from freshman All-American Bailey Ober, as the 10-game winner went eight innings, allowing one run on six hits in 111 pitches. He struck out four and did not give up a walk.
The sole Texas Tech run came in the fourth inning on an RBI double by DH Adam Kirsch.
While Ober kept TTU scoreless after that, the Cougars had two prime opportunities to drive in a run to even the score.
In the sixth inning, Blake Butler led off the inning with a single, which Brandon Murray followed up with a single of his own. But with no outs and runners on first and second, Charleston could not score with the heart of their order up. Carl Wise lined out to centerfield and both Nick Pappas and Brandon Glazer struck out.
Their next opportunity came in the seventh inning when Alex Pastorious led off the inning with a pinch hit single. Ryan Welke converted a sacrifice bunt to put Pastorious at second base with one out. After Morgan Phillips tapped one back to the pitcher for the second out, Champ Rowland scorched one to the gap in right centerfield, only for the Red Raiders’ center fielder, Devon Conley, to make a spectacular diving catch to save a run.
Ober pitched a hitless eighth and Chase Henry came on for a hitless ninth, but Charleston could not put another runner on base and for the second time in as many days, the Cougars’ bats could not capitalize on a great outing from their starting pitcher.
Hitting was the team’s achilles heel all season, with their team average ranked 213th in Division 1, while their pitching helped pick the bats up, recording the 20th-best ERA (2.73) in the nation. The staff ERA was a new program record, as well as their opponent batting average of .224.
The Cougars reached their second-ever Super Regional because of their stellar, if not surprising, starting rotation.
Entering the season, the only current starter in the weekend rotation was redshirt sophomore Taylor Clarke. While heralded prospects out of high school, both Ober and fellow freshman Tyler Thornton were unknowns for head coach Monte Lee. Meanwhile, both 2013 Freshman All-SoCon selection Nathan Helvey and sophomore transfer Eric Bauer figured to round out the rotation.
But it was Ober, especially, that burst onto the scene in epic fashion. His first appearance was in five innings of relief during the season opening series against North Carolina, where he did not allow a run for his first win of his career. He proceeded to go 4-0 to start his career, before losing two consecutive games only to then win six straight without another loss. Sunday’s 1-0 loss with just his third defeat of the season. His 1.52 ERA is the third best mark in school history.
Ober’s outstanding play earned him awards as the CAA Rookie of the Year and the CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. He was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, finishing second in the voting for Freshman Pitcher of the Year. The six-foot, eight inch righty was also selected to participate in USA Baseball’s training camp for a chance to make their 24-man roster.
Not to be outdone, Thornton came on strong late in the season, winning two postseason title games for the Cougars, the CAA Championship and the Gainesville Regional final. He was named the MVP of the Gainesville Regional.
The Cougars will lose five seniors, including outfielder Brandon Murray and his career 28 home runs and 123 RBIs. They will also graduate pitcher Michael Hanzlik, who broke the Cougars’ single season record for saves, team captain Ryan Welke, Ben Boykin, and Blake Ross.
Charleston will also be losing their leading hitter, junior Gunnar Heidt, who was selected by the Blue Jays in the 13th round of the MLB Draft. Heidt batted .329 on the season and was selected to the All-CAA first team. He concludes his career with 105 RBIs in 160 games.
Charleston’s 44 wins were tied for the most in a single season under Lee. Their CAA Tournament championship was the program’s first conference postseason title since 2006. This season marked the Cougars’ sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in the past ten years and first Super Regional appearance since 2006. They were just the fourth No. 4 seed to win a NCAA Tournament Regional, defeating No. 2 overall seed Florida before downing Long Beach State twice.
Charleston was nationally ranked twice during the course of the season. They were ranked 29th in the March 3 edition of the national writers’ poll and 16th in the June 3 edition of both the USA Today coaches’ poll and the national writers’ poll.