Bailey Ober grew up in Huntersville, N.C., just north of Charlotte and in the heart of ACC baseball country.
So why isn't College of Charleston's 6-8 freshman pitching for the Wolfpack or the Tar Heels?
"I don't know - you'll have to ask them," Ober said after throwing a two-hit shutout at The Citadel on Monday night at Riley Park, lifting the Cougars to an 8-0 victory and a series win against the rival Bulldogs.
It's a good bet that the coaching staffs at North Carolina State, North Carolina and other major programs are asking themselves the same question. Ober's debut season for the Cougars (12-3) has been nothing short of spectacular.
After limiting the Bulldogs to a bloop single and a bunt single, striking out eight and walking none, Ober is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in five college appearances. He's struck out 26 batters and walked none in 27 innings.
"Ober was outstanding," said Citadel coach Fred Jordan, whose club slipped to 7-9. "The location of his fastball, his breaking ball and then the changeup after the second inning, it was very difficult. He's a big tall guy and there's not much ball to hit because of the downward plane. You've got to credit him, he was the difference in the game tonight."
Ober, touching 90 mph on the radar gun early in the game, settled in at about 88-89 mph with his fastball. The right-hander threw 94 pitches and faced 30 batters, just three over the minimum. The Citadel's Mason Davis led off the first inning with a single to left, but the Bulldogs would not scratch again until Drew DeKerlegand's bunt single in the fourth.
"For a freshman, that was an unbelievable performance," said Citadel slugger Bo Thompson, who was 0 for 4. "He kept the ball low and and we really couldn't hit anything hard, unless it was on the ground. You couldn't get any lift on his ball, so I tip my cap to him."
Carl Wise had three hits and drove in two runs for the Cougars, who scored two runs in the first and two in the third against Citadel starter Kevin Connell (0-3) to take control. Gunnar Hedit had two hits and scored three times.
But the story of the game was Ober, who had a 20-1 record his last two seasons at Charlotte Christian High School, where he had a stress fracture in his elbow as a senior. Cougars pitching coach Matt Heath was on him early, and Ober announced his presence with five innings of shutout relief in his first college game, a 7-4 upset of then-No. 17 North Carolina in the season opener.
"You don't know what to expect when you come to college and in fall scrimmages," said Ober, who also played high school basketball. "But after you pitch a few games and feel that bigger atmosphere, you just settle in."
Cougars coach Monte Lee said he will work Ober toward the Friday night slot as the Colonial Athletic Association season approaches.
"He continues to amaze me in his true freshman year that he's pitching the way he is," Lee said. "I can't say enough good things about his composure, his poise, his ability to locate pitches. He was really good tonight. He's special."
The Citadel has lost four of its last five and faces USC Upstate on Wednesday before starting its Southern Conference slate this weekend at Davidson.
"We've got to get some confidence back," Jordan said. "We took one on the chin tonight, but our kids are resilient. We knew it'd be a tough pre-conference schedule, and we're right at .500. So we'll see what happens."
Citadel shortstop Johnathan Stokes missed the game after getting his wisdom teeth pulled. He should be back for this weekend's SoCon series at Davidson, Jordan said. . College of Charleston now plays five straight home games, including Jacksonville on Tuesday and four games in three days this weekend at Patriots Point.