GAINESVILLE, Fla. - College of Charleston freshman pitcher Bailey Ober didn't have his best stuff Saturday night against Long Beach State.
It was still good enough to get the Cougars a victory and one win away from playing in the school's second NCAA Super Regional.
Ober threw seven strong innings and Ben Boykin and Nick Pappas each hit home runs to lead the Cougars past Long Beach State, 6-3, Saturday night in the second round of the Gainesville Regional.
The Cougars (43-17) will face the winner of the North Carolina-Long Beach State game Sunday night at 7 p.m. in the championship round. North Carolina eliminated Florida, 5-2, earlier Sunday afternoon.
While Ober wasn't overpowering, he was still plenty effective. Ober (10-2) picked up his 10th win of the season, by scattering seven hits and giving up three runs over seven innings. Ober and fellow starter Taylor Clarke become the first pitchers in program history to have double-digit wins in the same season.
"I thought I was throwing okay today," Ober said. "I don't think I had my best stuff that I've had previously in the year. The main goal when you don't have all your pitches is to just keep competing and try your hardest to execute every pitch. Hopefully your defense will stand up and make a play for you."
A victory Sunday night against either the Tar Heels or Dirtbags would propel the Cougars to the program's second super regional appearance. The Cougars advanced against to a Super Regional in 2006 by beating Kentucky in the Lexington Regional.
"I really hope that Long Beach State and North Carolina play for a long while in that first game," College of Charleston coach Monte Lee said with a chuckle. "They are both very good ball clubs. We've won the first two games in the regional and we've put ourselves in a good position, but we still haven't accomplished anything. We're one win away from getting to a super regional, but we haven't gotten there yet."
The Cougars offense wasn't always pretty, but efficient. Long Beach starter Josh Frye (8-1) was dominant for the first six innings, retiring 12 straight Cougar batters during one stretch, but gave up four runs in the sixth inning to get his first loss of the season.
"(Frye) was as good as advertised," Lee said.
The Cougars grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Blake Butler walked to start the game and Brandon Murray reached on an infield hit. Butler later scored on Nick Pappas' fielder's choice.
The Dirtbags tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth on Johnny Bekakis' RBI single to left.
Long Beach State loaded the bases in the sixth inning with no outs, but the Dirtbags managed just a single run on Zach Belanger's sacrifice fly to left field to take a 2-1 lead.
The Cougars answered in their half of the sixth with four runs to grab a 5-2 lead. Butler walked to start the inning and Murray doubled to left field with no outs. One batter later, Carl Wise lifted a deep fly ball to right field that scored Butler to tie the game at 2-2.
Murray would score on a throwing error by Long Beach pitcher starting pitcher Josh Frye and two batters later, designated hitter Ben Boykin would smack a two-run shot to right field.
"Ben's home run changed the whole momentum of the game," Lee said. "I think up until that point, Long Beach was outplaying us. Brandon had a great at bat and to get that double with two strikes really got us going."
The Dirtbags get another run in the seventh inning when Colton Vaughn singled to start the inning and later scored on Garrett Hampsen's sacrifice fly.
Freshman Nick Pappas gave the Cougars an insurance run in the eighth inning with a solo home run to make it 6-3.
"I just really wanted to get on base somehow, some way. It just happened to be a home run," Pappas said.
Sophomore Nathan Helvey pitched a perfect eighth inning to preserve the Cougars lead, and then Michael Hanzlik came back out in the ninth to get his second save in two NCAA games. Hanzlik has 16 saves on the season, setting the new single-season record for saves.
College of Charleston freshman pitcher Bailey Ober threw seven strong innings Saturday night against Long Beach State in the Gainesville Regional. (photo by Shane Roper). ¬×