GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Trailing by three runs to UNC Wilmington in the opening round of the Colonial Athletic Association baseball tournament last weekend, College of Charleston head coach Monte Lee knew the Cougars were teetering on the brink of losing the game and possibly missing out on a spot in an NCAA regional for the second straight season.
Where: McKethan Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
Schedule: Friday - No. 2 Long Beach State (32-24) vs. No. 3 North Carolina (34-25), 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
No. 1 Florida (40-21) vs. No. 4 College of Charleston (41-17), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Tickets: GatorZone.com/tickets; (800) 344-2867, ext. 6800
UNC Wilmington starting pitcher Jordan Ramsey had been dominant through the first four innings, striking seven Cougar batters, while allowing just one run.
The Cougars were in desperate need of a spark.
Enter Carl Wise.
After Champ Rowland singled to start the fifth inning and Blake Butler's RBI double to close the gap to 4-2, Brandon Murray reached on an infield single.
Wise stepped to the plate with a chance to give Charleston their first lead of the game. A year ago, the Lexington native had led the Cougars with 10 home runs and was a consensus freshman All-American.
But word on gotten out on Wise by the spring and teams were pitching around the talented third baseman. As a result, the former White Knoll High School standout had seen considerably fewer fastballs and his home run production had dropped to just two during the regular season.
Wise knew he would was going to see a steady diet of off-speed pitches from Ramsey and understood the need to be patient.
"You don't want to be too aggressive in that situation, you want to wait on a good pitch," Wise said.
Wise eventually got the breaking ball he'd expected and drove the ball to the middle of the park, just like he'd been taught every day in practice. The ball sailed over the right-center field fence and the Cougars grabbed a 5-4 lead.
"Honestly, Carl Wise changed the whole momentum of that the game, and the tournament in my opinion, with one swing of the bat," Lee said. "I'm not sure if Carl doesn't hit that home run if we win that game. If we don't win that game, we probably don't win the tournament. In that situation, that's the guy we needed to have at the plate. I was hoping he could just keep the rally going, maybe drive in a run, but he did more than that."
Wise has proven to be an RBI machine for the Cougars this season. His 52 RBIs are nearly double that of Brandon Glazer's 30, which ranks second on the team. Hitting .293 for the season, Wise's batting average jumps to .382 with runners in scoring position. He has 22 RBIs in 25 opportunities with a runner on third and less than two outs. Wise's nine sacrifice flies led the CAA and ranks second all-time in school history for a single season.
"When we've got a runner in scoring position, especially a guy on third, Carl doesn't go up there with the mindset of getting a hit," Lee said. "He's up there thinking, 'How can I drive this guy in?' I can't tell you how many times he's hit a sacrifice fly or hits a ground ball and the guy scores. That's all he cares about. He doesn't care about his batting average, he cares about driving in runners.'"
Although his batting average is lower than last season - .321 compared to .293 - and his power numbers are not as high (10 HRs to 3 HRs) as in 2013, Lee said Wise is actually having a better season at the plate.
"I think Carl has had a great season," Lee said. "He's been incredibly productive for us. I think last year he kind of caught some people by surprise and this year he's been a marked man in our lineup, but he's still been able to drive in more than 50 runs."
Wise seems to be at his best when facing elite pitching. Wise will see plenty of quality pitchers this weekend during the Gainesville Regional. Florida starting pitcher Logan Shore is among the top freshman pitchers in the country.
"Carl's a guy that's going to raise his level of play in big-time situations or against really good pitching," Lee said. "Carl doesn't shrink from pressure situations. He can hit big-time arms. He can hit a good fastball and that's why I think he's got a chance to play for a while after he gets out of college."