College of Charleston baseball preview: Matt Pegler the key for Cougars
The 2012 season got off to an inauspicious start for College of Charleston pitcher Matt Pegler.
2012 Record: 38-22 overall (21-9 in SoCon).Head Coach: Monte Lee (5th season) is 156-85.Top Players: RHP Matt Pegler (10-2, 89.0 IP, 2.83 ERA, 66 Ks); OF Brandon Murray (.330, 12 HRs, 42 RBI); IF Bradley Goodson (.276, 8 HR, 42 RBI), 3B/DH Brandon Glazer (.313, 7 HR, 25 RBI).Top Newcomers: C/IF Ben Boykin (Spartanburg Methodist CC); RHP Nathan Helvey (Fort Mill HS), IF Carl Wise (White Knoll HS).Outlook: The Cougars will have to replace several marquee names from last year, including SoCon Pitcher of the Year Christian Powell and pitchers Josh Renfro, Kyle Owings and David Peterson along with OF Daniel Aldrich and OF Marty Gantt. The Cougars return RHP Matt Pegler, the preseason SoCon Pitcher of the Year, and OF Brandon Murray, who led the Cougars with 12 home runs. The Cougars might be a better overall hitting team this spring. The biggest question mark is the bullpen.Cougars By The Numbers2.83: Matt Pegler’s ERA last season, second-best in SoCon5: NCAA Tournament appearances since 20046: Players from last year’s team to sign pro contracts31-3: Record last season when leading after the fourth inningCollege of Charleston ScheduleFebruary15 – Xavier, 6 p.m.; 16 – Xavier, 2 p.m.; 17 – Xavier, 1 p.m.; 19 – at Charleston Southern, 2 p.m.; 22 – Indiana State*, 3 p.m.; 23 – Auburn*, 2 p.m.; 24 – Middle Tennessee State*, 11 a.m.; 26 – at Jacksonville, 4 p.m.March1 – South Alabama, 6 p.m.; 2 – South Alabama, 2 p.m. ; 3 – South Alabama, 1 pm.; 5 – UNC-Wilmington, 4 p.m.; 6 – Charleston Southern, 4 p.m.; 8 – at Elon, 4 p.m.; 9 – at Elon, 2 p.m.; 10 – at Elon, 1:30 p.m.; 15 – Western Carolina, 6 p.m.; 16 – Western Carolina, 2 p.m.; 17 – Western Carolina, 1 p.m.; 19 – Connecticut, 6 p.m.; 20 – The Citadel, 2 p.m.; 22 – Appalachian State, 6 p.m.; 23 – Appalachian State, 2 p.m.; 24 – Appalachian State, 1 p.m.; 26 – South Carolina, 6 p.m.; 29 – at Samford, 7 p.m.; 20 – Samford (DH), 3 p.m.April 2 – at UNC-Wilmington, 6 p.m.; 5 – UNC-Greensboro, 6 p.m.; 6 – UNC-Greensboro, 6 p.m.; 7 – UNC-Greensboro, 1 p.m.; 9 – at Coastal Carolina, 6 p.m.; 12 – at Davidson, 6 p.m.; 13 – at Davidson, 2 p.m.; 14 – at Davidson, 1 p.m.; 16 – at South Carolina, 7 p.m.; 19 – Furman, 6 p.m.; 20 – Furman, 2 p.m.; 21 – Furman, 1 p.m.; 23 – Coastal Carolina, 6 p.m.; 27 – Radford (DH), 4 p.m.; 28 – Radford, 12 p.m.May3 – at Wofford, 7 p.m.; 4 – at Wofford, 3 p.m.; 5 – at Wofford, 1 p.m.; 7 – Campbell, 4 p.m.; 8 – Georgia, 6 p.m.; 10 – at The Citadel, 6 p.m.; 11 – at The Citadel, 2 p.m.; 12 – at The Citadel, 1 p.m.; 14 – Jacksonville, 6 p.m.; 16 – Georgia Southern, 6 p.m.; 17 – Georgia Southern, 2 p.m.; Georgia Southern, 1 p.m.; 22-26 – Southern Conference Tournament (Greenville).*-Auburn Tournament in Auburn, Ala.
Taking the mound for his season debut in the Cougars’ second game of the season, Pegler gave up three runs in the first inning against South Alabama.
Charleston coach Monte Lee thought briefly about lifting Pegler from the game, but in the end decided to allow the right-hander a chance to fight through it.
Pegler settled down, allowing just one hit over the next five innings to earn the victory. After the game, Pegler made a point of thanking Lee for leaving him in.
“I just wanted him to know how much I appreciated his confidence in me,” Pegler said. “I think that gave me the confidence I needed for the rest of the season.”
And what a season it was for Pegler. He finished 2012 with a 10-2 mark — only the fifth pitcher in school history to get double-digit wins in a season — and a 2.83 earned run average, which was second in the Southern Conference behind teammate Christian Powell. Teams hit a SoCon low .221 against Pegler.
Not bad for a guy who was penciled in as a mid-week starter when the season began. But a bicep injury during the preseason to Jake Zokan propelled Pegler into a more prominent role as the Sunday starter.
Pegler won more Sunday games than any other pitcher in the SoCon a year ago. Powell and Josh Renfo, who have moved on to professional baseball, might have had more impressive resumes and bigger reputations, but it was Pegler who anchored the Cougars’ pitching staff a season ago.
“Matt is a guy who got his opportunity and ran with it,” Lee said. “Matt did a great job in the role that we gave him. Heck, he was the best Sunday starter in our conference.”
Pegler will have a much more prominent role on the Cougars’ staff this season as he is slated to be the Friday night starter. He was named the SoCon’s preseason pitcher of the year by the league coaches.
“I don’t think it’ll be too much of a difference for me,” Pegler said. “The only real difference is that we’ll play at night instead of during the day. I’m still throwing against the same lineup.”
Pegler isn’t the most overpowering pitcher on the staff. You won’t see radar guns showing 90 mph when Pegler is on the mound. However, the 6-1, 220-pound senior has command of four pitches — fastball, cutter, breaking ball and changeup — that he’ll throw any time in the count.
The Cougars will need every inning Pegler can give them as they try to reach the NCAA tournament for the sixth time since 2004. Charleston received an NCAA at-large bid in 2012. With the departure of Powell, Renfo, Kyle Owings and David Peterson, the biggest question marks for the Cougars will be on the mound. Zokan, who missed most of last season with an arm injury, will be slated as the Saturday starter, while either freshman Nathan Helvey or senior Jimmy Revan, a South Carolina transfer, will start on Sundays.
Lee tentatively has Dre Watts as the closer with Ryan West and Drew Freie in setup roles.
“We’re not going to have an overpowering staff this year,” Lee said. “I’m comfortable with Dre as our closer, and I think Ryan and Drew are going to eat up some innings for us. I think we have guys that will throw strikes. We’re just going to need guys to make plays behind them in the field.”
The Cougars lost outfielders Marty Gnatt and Daniel Aldrich. Both hit 11 home runs and drove in more than 45 runs last year. But left fielder Brandon Murray is back with his team-leading 12 home runs along with Brandon Glazer, who hit .313 with seven home runs. Devon Reed, Gunnar Heidt and Tyler Jackson all started double-digit games a year ago.
“I’m not sure we’ve got a pure No. 3 or No. 4 hitter, but I feel like we’ve got a lot of guys who know what they are doing with the bat and can hit for some power,” Lee said. “We’ve got some speed at the top of the order and I think we’ve got more depth. We’ve got more guys who can give us more quality at-bats than we did last year.”
Replacing key players in the lineup wasn’t the only concern for the Cougars in the offseason. Allegations of a sexual assault in April involving four players came to light last fall. A six-month investigation did not result in any arrests. Lee declined to comment on the situation.