LUBBOCK, Texas - The College of Charleston brought its pitching arms and defense to the Lubbock Super Regional against Texas Tech.
The Cougars, unfortunately, left their bats back in the Lowcountry.
Texas Tech starter Dylan Dusek threw five strong innings and three Red Raiders relievers combined to shut out the College of Charleston, 1-0, for the second straight game Sunday afternoon before a standing-room-only crowd of 4,811 at Rip Griffin Park.
With the victory, the Red Raiders (45-19) swept the NCAA super regional series with the Cougars and advanced to the first College World Series in the program's history.
The Cougars failed to score in two games and managed just nine total hits over two days against the Red Raiders' pitching staff. The Cougars (44-19) also failed to win a game during a super regional for the second straight time. In 2006, the Cougars were beaten in two straight games by Georgia Tech.
But it wasn't for a lack of starting pitching. The Cougars' two starters - Taylor Clarke on Saturday and Bailey Ober on Sunday - were superb in back-to-back games. Clarke and Ober each lasted eight innings and gave up just one run to Texas Tech.
"Our starting pitching this weekend couldn't have been any better," said College of Charleston coach Monte Lee. "Taylor and Bailey both pitched great. They pitched well enough for us to win both games. We just couldn't get a hit when we needed it, and you've got to give Texas Tech credit there. We didn't execute in a couple of different situations when we had runners in scoring position, but Texas Tech had something to do with that."
After a shaky start, Ober (10-3) settled into a rhythm, retiring 12 of 14 batters he faced in the middle innings. Ober, a Freshman All-American, went eight innings and giving up just a single run and six hits to the Red Raiders.
"Bailey was phenomenal," Lee said. "He had to battle through some innings when the leadoff guy got on, but he worked through some of it and got out of a couple of jams."
The lack of offensive production from his lineup was difficult for Lee to understand. Getting shut out twice and managing just nine hits was even harder for Lee to swallow. The timely hits that pushed the Cougars during their six-game run through the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and Gainesville Regional were nowhere to be found in Texas.
"Hitters are streaky, and sometimes you're going to get those big hits," Lee said. "We just couldn't find a way to string a couple of hits together to get a run in."
Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock almost felt sorry for the Cougars.
"The game was kind of cruel to the College of Charleston this weekend," Tadlock said. "I think we had something to do with that, but I thought College of Charleston had some good at-bats. They played really well in both games. Baseball is a game of failure."
The Red Raiders scored the game's only run when Tyler Neslony singled to start the fourth inning. Two batters later, designated hitter Adam Kirsch doubled down the right-field line to score Neslony and give the Red Raiders a 1-0 advantage.
The Cougars had their best chance to score in the seventh when pinch hitter Alex Pastorious singled to start the inning. He took second on a sacrifice bunt from Ryan Welke, and two batters later, Champ Rowland hit a line drive to shallow right-center field that appeared to be a sure hit.
However, Red Raiders center fielder Devon Conley came swooping in and made a spectacular diving catch to end the inning.
"That might have been the greatest catch I've ever seen and I've seen a lot of baseball games over the last 14 years," said Lee. "(Conley) covered a tremendous amount of ground and made a great catch in a huge moment for them. Champ made good contact, and against just about any other team that would have been a sure hit and we tie the game."
The Cougars had another chance to score in the sixth when Blake Butler and Brandon Murray singled to start the inning. But Red Raiders reliever Cameron Smith got Carl Wise to fly out to center and then struck out Nick Pappas and Brandon Glazer to end the threat.
"We just couldn't come up that big hit when we needed it," Lee said. "They made some great defensive plays and their pitching was really good in both ball games."
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