The College of Charleston baseball team will begin the 2016 season this Friday (4 p.m.) when they host the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Patriots Point. The Cougars enter the season ranked No. 32 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll.
The Cougars are coming off a season that culminated in a berth in the NCAA Tallahassee Regional. A 45-15 record propelled them to a Colonial Athletic Association regular season title. The College spent the final six weeks of the season ranked in all five national polls recognized by the NCAA, climbing as high as No. 13, their highest ranking since the 2006 season. The season ultimately ended in a loss to the No. 1 seeded Florida State Seminoles.
As the lone team ranked in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, the College are considered among the favorites to win the conference in 2016. Not only were they selected to come in second in the preseason conference ranking, the team features five players who received preseason all-conference honors. Two players were named to the preseason All-CAA team, outfielder Ryan Brown and right-handed pitcher Bailey Ober, while three other landed on the honorable mention list, Erven Roper, Bradley Jones and Carter Love.
“It’s certainly a deserving honor for all five of our players; they work hard both on and off the field,” Charleston head coach Matt Heath said. “We have high goals set for the upcoming season and there is no doubt we will be relying on these guys to help the team accomplish our goals.”
Heath has served as the Cougars pitching coach since 2011 and will have to fill the shoes of reigning CAA coach of the year Monte Lee. Lee was hired away to coach the Clemson Tigers during the off season after seven season with the Cougars. Lee won 276 games (276-145), making four trips to the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back regional finals appearances in 2014-15.
A familiarity with the players and existing systems should ease the transition from one coach to the other. Especially when you consider that last season, under Heath’s supervision, the pitching staff set a record for fewest walks in school history with just 142 (2.3 BB/g).
This season’s home slate consists of thirty-three games, and is highlighted by non-conference visits from Nebraska (Feb. 19-21), Coastal Carolina (March 2 and 22), The Citadel (March 5), Richmond (March 8), Mercer (March 11-13), Charleston Southern (March 16), Virginia Commonwealth (March 18-20), Georgia Southern (April 5), UC Santa Barbara (April 8-10) and Furman (May 17). The Cougars play all of their games at the ballpark at Patriots Point, since it first opened in 2001, they have compiled a 272-104 record at home.
Nebraska opens their fifth season under former MLB all-star and head coach Darin Erstad in the Holy City, coming off a 34-23 finish last season.