This was not the way the College of Charleston wanted to leave the Southern Conference.
Sebastian Gomez had three hits, including a home run, and drove in five runs and first baseman Ryan Kinsella added two hits and four RBIs to lead Elon past the College of Charleston, 18-8, Thursday afternoon at Fluor Field in Greenville.
The Cougars, who lost 2-0 earlier in the day to Georgia Southern, were eliminated from the SoCon tournament. It was the sixth-straight loss for the Cougars at Fluor Field in the SoCon tournament over the past three years.
The Cougars (31-26) will leave the SoCon in July and join the Colonial Athletic Association beginning next fall. Ironically, Elon announced Thursday it too will be joining the CAA beginning in July 2014.
“It’s an incredibly disappointing way to leave this conference,” said College of Charleston coach Monte Lee. “I love this conference. It’s the conference I played in and have coached in for the last five years. They really care about baseball in the Southern Conference. I know I’m going to miss it.”
The 18 runs and 19 hits by the Phoenix were the most given up by the Cougars pitching staff all season. The Cougars’ pitching staff Thursday hardly resembled the one that finished the regular season leading the SoCon in team ERA (3.99), opposing batting average (.260), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.62) and walks allowed (158).
“Obviously, you’ve got to give credit to Elon because they hit the ball very well,” Lee said. “We couldn’t stop them, but it was an uncharacteristic game for us. For the majority of the season we haven’t given up big innings like we did today. We didn’t do a very good job of executing on some of our pitches. We left some pitches over the plate and they were able to get the barrel of their bat on it. It was just one of those days.”
Facing elimination against the Phoenix, the Cougars got off to a quick start as first baseman Carl Wise blasted two home runs in his first two at bats to give Charleston a 4-1 in the third inning. Wise blasted a two-run shot in the first and the Cougars appeared to be on their way to a big inning, but a lineup snafu in which Ben Boykin and Morgan Phillips batted out of order ended the threat. Lee had changed his lineup after finding out that Elon closer Nate Young was going to start against the Cougars instead of Spencer Medick.
“That was my fault,” Lee said.
Kinsella, the SoCon Player of the Year, changed the momentum of the game with one swing of his bat when the smacked a three-run home run over the left field fence to tie the game at 4-4. It was Kinsella’s 20th home run of the season.
“You can’t make a mistake against a hitter like Kinsella,” Lee said. “We made a mistake and he made us pay for it. That’s why he’s the player of the year in our conference.”
The real damage was done in the fifth inning when the Phoenix sent 10 batters to the plate and scored eight runs on eight hits. Gomez had a three-run double to highlight the inning for Elon.
“We just couldn’t get anyone out,” Lee said. “It didn’t matter who we sent to the mound.”
Wise, a freshman, was one of the few bright spots for the Cougars, collecting four hits, including two home runs, a double, four runs scored and 4 RBI. Wise had five home runs in his last five games for the Cougars.
In the first game of the day, Georgia Southern pitcher Justin Hess tossed a four-hit shutout against the Cougars.
“Hess pitched a tremendous game,” Lee said. “I thought we played well, but give credit to Hess.”
Charleston senior starting pitcher Jake Zokan did his part, going 6.2 innings, scattering seven hits, while striking out a career-high 10 batters.
Georgia Southern first baseman T.D. Davis provided the only offense of the game when he blasted a two-run home run over the left field fence in the top of the first inning. Former Wando High School star Robbie Dodds, who had a single, scored on the play. Davis finished with two hits, including a double.
The Cougars game with Georgia Southern was postponed until Thursday morning after severe weather hit Greenville area Wednesday night.