MOUNT PLEASANT - An unusual road series at Houston in March included a controversial ending to one game and the bizarre ejection of College of Charleston head coach Monte Lee for another. Jet lag, too.
"We know what it's like to play a good team in Texas and we know what it's like to play in that Texas heat," Cougars senior catcher Ryan Welke said Tuesday.
Who knew an almost impromptu trip would become ideal as viewed through June-colored glasses?
The College of Charleston is preparing for another unlikely visit to Texas - this one for a Lubbock Super Regional against Texas Tech that starts Saturday. The Houston experience looks better by the precious postseason practice.
"We know what the atmosphere is like out there for games," senior outfielder Brandon Murray said. "We also know they will have bigger crowds at Texas Tech."
The reality of high stakes and Omaha steaks set in Tuesday as the Cougars posed for a team picture required by College World Series management. To reach Nebraska, they must win the best-of-three series in Lubbock.
On the map, it's 1,445 miles away.
On paper, it's closer to possible than winning the Gainesville Regional, where the Cougars were a No. 4 seed facing an opening game against Florida, the No. 2 national seed. The underdogs won three straight, defeating the Gators, Long Beach State and the Dirtbags again in a Monday clincher.
Red Raiders' resume
Texas Tech is good. The No. 2-seeded Red Raiders won the Coral Gables Regional by bouncing back from a loss to Miami to down the Hurricanes, 4-0, at Alex Rodriguez Park.
Houston is playing in a super regional, too - against Texas in Austin.
The College of Charleston has come a long way since March.
"We got a lot out of that trip," Lee said. "We're going back to the state of Texas and in Texas, baseball is just so strong. It's a pitching and defense-oriented state. You have all those arms historically coming out of Texas, all that speed and so many good defensive players. It's not a grip-and-rip home run state."
Yes, check out the Red Raiders' Coral Gables Regional wins: 3-2 over Columbia, 3-0 over Miami, 4-0 over Miami.
Lee's odd ejection
The Cougars' rare air travel outside the Eastern Time Zone to Houston became necessary when Houston head coach Todd Whitting ran into schedule issues. He asked Lee if they could make a late switch in a home-and-home arrangement that originally called for a 2014 weekend series in Mount Pleasant (Houston will come in 2016).
The College of Charleston lost all three games at, of all places, Cougar Field.
But both teams had seven hits in an 8-3 loss in the first game.
In Houston's 7-1 victory in the third game, the College of Charleston led 1-0 going into the seventh inning.
And the second game had an ending made for "Little Big League" film fans. Houston won, 3-2, after an appeal in which umpires ruled Blake Butler's tying run didn't count. Butler was ruled out for the final out of the game for failing to touch third base while dashing home from second on Carl Wise's ninth-inning, two-out double.
Arguing the play after the game, Lee was ejected - for the third game of the series on Sunday.
Frustrating at the time, a little Lone Star State adversity comes in handy this time of year.
"Even though we didn't win a ballgame in Houston," Lee said, "the fact we flew there and faced that type of competition in that type of setting will hopefully help us this weekend."
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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