With a lineup stocked with veteran hitters returning, two main questions faced College of Charleston baseball coach Monte Lee this season: How would the Cougars fare in their new league, and did he have any pitchers?
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday at Riley Park; 2 p.m. Sunday at Patriots Point; 6 p.m. Monday at Riley Park
RECORDS: CofC 10-2; Citadel 6-7
The answer to the first question remains to be seen, as College of Charleston is still three weeks away from its Colonial Athletic Association opener.
But as the Cougars prepare for a three-game series with rival The Citadel starting Saturday, the answer to the second question is trending toward "Yes."
A handful of first-year pitchers have been key to the Cougars' 10-2 start, which included a series win over ACC power North Carolina to begin the season.
Two of those new pitchers - 6-8 freshman Bailey Ober and 6-4 sophomore Taylor Clarke, a transfer from Towson - will be among the Cougars' three starters against the Bulldogs this weekend.
"We're off to a pretty good start because we've been pretty consistent," Lee said. "And a lot of that has to do with our pitching staff. Ober has just been outstanding and has pitched like a veteran. And Clarke has been pretty steady for us."
Ober, a right-hander from Huntersville, N.C., is 3-0 with a 1.50 earned-run average in three appearances, with 18 strikeouts and no walks in 18 innings. Ober, who was 21-1 his last two seasons at Charlotte Christian High School, announced his presence with authority this season, pitching five innings of two-hit, shutout relief in the season-opening, 7-4 win over UNC.
Clarke, from Ashburn, Va., is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA for a Cougar staff that is third in the CAA with a 2.92 ERA. Another freshman, right-hander Hayden McCutcheon of Greenwood, is 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA and two saves, and reliever Chase Henry, a junior who transferred in from Spartanburg Methodist, has pitched in six games with a 1-0 record an no earned runs in 13 1/3 innings.
"Those guys have been very, very good for us and are the big reason why we've been as consistent as we have been," Lee said.
Meanwhile, Citadel coach Fred Jordan, whose club is 6-7 after season-opening wins over College World Series squad Louisville and the ACC's Virginia Tech, is still looking for consistent pitching.
Saturday starter James Reeves is 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA, but Friday starter Logan Cribb is at 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA, and the Sunday slot is still unsettled between Austin Livingston (0-2, 8.76) and Kevin Connell (0-2, 5.68 ERA).
"We are probably a little better than we've played the last 18 innings," said Jordan, whose club has lost two straight. "And we're probably not quite as good as we played the first 18 innings of the season. We're making progress with our pitching staff, but that's something that's been a little bit of a disappointment with the amount of walks and hits we've given up.
"Pitching is 90 percent of the game, and if we're going to have a good year or great year, we've got to throw more strikes."
The Citadel's early schedule has included nine games against teams from major conferences; the Bulldogs are 4-5 in those games and begin Southern Conference play March 14 at Davidson.
The start of the Cougars-Bulldogs series was pushed back a day due to weather. The games are set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Riley Park, 2 p.m. Sunday at Patriots Point and 6 p.m. Monday at Riley Park.
The Cougars will start sophomore Nathan Helvey (1-0, 5.74) in the first game, followed by Clarke and Ober. The Bulldogs will counter with Cribb, Reeves and either Connell or Livingston on Monday.