C of C stuns top-seeded Florida, 3-2; faces Dirt Bags Saturday
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - College of Charleston baseball coach Monte Lee was forced to watch his oldest daughter - Madie - graduate from Hanahan High School 300 miles away via the internet.
It killed Lee not to be able to be there in person when Madie stepped across the stage to receive her diploma, but the veteran coach had a pretty good excuse for his absence.
After all, the Cougars were playing in the Gainesville Regional against Florida, the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But Madie, who left Charleston just minutes after her graduation ceremony was complete and made the five-hour drive to Gainesville, Fla., quickly forgave her father after the Cougars upset the Gators in one of the biggest wins in program history.
The College of Charleston pounded out 10 hits and got three runs in the first inning and then had to hold off a furious Florida rally to beat the eighth-ranked Gators, 3-2, Friday night in the opening round game of the Gainesville Regional at McKeathan Stadium.
The Cougars (42-17) will face the Long Beach State Dirt Bags, a 6-1 winner over North Carolina, Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Gators, top seed in the regional, will face the Tar Heels at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.
The Cougars are the No. 4 seed in Gainesville. But they have freshman Bailey Ober (9-2, 1.37 earned run average) ready to face the Dirt Bags on Saturday night.
"Madie grew up watching college baseball and she's probably our biggest fan," Lee said. "I really had mixed emotions about the whole day. It was really tough for me not to able to be there for her graduation. I got to watch it on-line. The scary thing was that she drove all the way from Charleston to Gainesville and she's not a very good driver."
Madie made it in plenty of time to see the historic win because the game was delayed for more than three hours due to heavy rain and lightning in the Gainesville area prior to the first pitch. The game, which was supposed to start at 7 p.m., didn't get underway until 10:15 p.m. and didn't finish until after 1 a.m. Saturday morning.
"That was one of the good things about the rain delay," Lee said.
The Cougars are peaking at the right time of the year, having won four games in a row and 11 of the last 13 after sweeping through the Colonial Athletic Association's conference tournament last weekend.
It was Lee's 13th win against a ranked opponent.
The College of Charleston was one of three No. 4 seeds to defeat top-seeded hosts on the first day of the NCAA Tournament.
Facing the SEC Rookie of the Year in freshman Logan Shore, the Cougars pounded out three runs on seven hits in the first inning. Brandon Murray knocked an RBI double that scored Blake Butler and then Nick Pappas drove in two more runs with a double to center field. Shore had given up just 20 earned runs in 90 innings of work this season. The 10 hits the Cougars produced were the most Shore has given up in a single game all season.
"We had the mindset that we were going to attack him and not let him get ahead of us," Murray said. "We stayed on his fastball. He has a really good change-up. We just attacked pitches in the zone and we tried not to give him any breathing room."
Although the Cougars would not score again and had just one hit after the second inning, Shore left the game after just five innings.
Charleston starter Taylor Clarke struggled with his control, lasting just 4.1 innings. He did work out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam with back-to-back strikeouts in the third inning.
"Taylor Clarke wasn't as sharp as he usually is, but I will give him credit because he battled all night," Lee said. "He had the bases loaded with one out and got back-to-back punch outs to get out of the fourth inning."
Florida got the first two runners on in the fifth inning when Braden Mattson hit a long fly to the left field wall. Charleston's Morgan Phillips nearly made a spectacular catch at the wall, but the collision knocked the ball loose. With runners holding to see if a catch was made, Mattson crossed the path of Taylor Gushue at first and was called out. Pinch-hitter Mike Fahrman hit an RBI groundout, but reliever Eric Bauer came on to get out of the inning with no further damage.
Bauer (6-2) earned his sixth win as he took the Cougars all the way to ninth inning to set up closer Michael Hanzlik.
The Gators added a run in the sixth off a sacrifice fly RBI from Richie Martin, but Bauer finished with a walk and a strikeout and only allowed three hits.
Hanzlik shut the door in the ninth, pitching a perfect inning and picking up his 15th save of the season.
It was the 12th one-run victory for Charleston as the Cougars improved to 28-2 when scoring first and 34-2 when leading after the sixth inning.
"Eric Bauer came in and did a fantastic job of throwing strikes and getting some big outs," Lee said. "Michael Hanzlik came in and was as sharp as he's been all year in one of the biggest games in the history of our program. I've got to give a lot of credit to our bullpen. Eric Bauer and Michael Hanzlik were phenomenal and we got it going offensively early and we held on."