COLUMBIA — Daniel Aldrich figured that by the time he gathered his bat and glove and opened his bag after Tuesday’s 4-3 College of Charleston win at South Carolina, his cell phone would already show a missed call from his father, Charlie.
Aldrich, a third-year sophomore from Wando High, had one of the most memorable games of his career, as he was 2 for 4 with a two-run home run in the first inning that sparked a victory over the two-time defending national champions.
But Charlie, who lettered in baseball at USC from 1985-87, didn’t get out of work in time to drive to Columbia, so he had to settle for watching on television at home in Mount Pleasant. He surely liked what he saw, as his son once again crushed the ball against his alma mater — and the school where Daniel was once committed to play, as well.
“It’s a big win for our program, a signature win for us,” Aldrich said. “It was an awesome experience to beat a program like (South Carolina).”
Charleston (26-12) lost 7-0 at home earlier this month to USC, was 5-45 all-time against the Gamecocks entering Tuesday and hadn’t defeated them since 2007. Under fourth-year coach Monte Lee, who was a USC assistant from 2003-08, the Cougars were 0-6 against the Gamecocks and had lost by a combined score of 79-18, including 24-4 last year in Columbia.
This USC team (27-11) seems a bit more mortal than the previous two. The No. 9 Gamecocks — who left 13 runners on base Tuesday, including two after they scored two runs in the eighth to cut the lead to 4-3 — have now lost three midweek games. They also lost to Wofford and Division II Francis Marion. USC lost two midweek games last season, none in 2010 and three in 2009.
But Aldrich will happily take the win, for which the Cougars’ senior starting pitcher, Ryan West, can also take a good deal of credit. West allowed three hits and a run in six innings. He struck out seven batters and walked two. He took a tough loss against USC earlier this season when he gave up six hits and two runs in five innings.
“We had a better idea of what we were going to do with them after last time,” said West.
While West improved from his last outing against USC, Aldrich kept up his torrid hitting against the Gamecocks, whose starting pitcher, Noland Belcher, gave up four runs and three homers in 22/3 innings.
Last season, Aldrich went 3 for 7 in two games against USC, with a solo homer in each contest. He downplayed the notion that he hits well against USC because his family ties and previous commitment add excitement to the games.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with that,” he said.
Aldrich said he decided USC wasn’t “the right fit” and decided not to come. He signed with Wake Forest, didn’t have the grades to get in there, then called Lee midway through spring of his senior year and landed at his hometown college, and Lee’s alma mater.
Lee talked after Tuesday’s game about how he mainly felt happy for his players, who he said “believe we can play with anybody in the country.” He did admit that it was “a special win for me,” in part because of all the fond memories he has of working under USC coach Ray Tanner, including College World Series appearances in Lee’s first two seasons on the staff.
“Pretty much everything I do as a baseball coach I learned from coach (Ray) Tanner,” Lee said. “I owe him my career.”