In a lineup filled with veteran hitters, a redshirt freshman new to college baseball is leading College of Charleston in batting.
Sounds surprising, but it's no shocker for Cougars outfielder Daniel Aldrich or coach Monte Lee -- or anyone who's seen the broadbacked Aldrich launch towering shots in batting practice.
"What he's doing doesn't necessarily surprise us as much as you'd think it might, with him being in his first year playing," said Lee, whose Cougars visit
The Citadel for a three-game Southern Conference showdown starting today at Riley Park.
"Daniel is a kid who has always hit," Lee said. "We've been recruiting him since his sophomore year at Wando High School, and he's always put up numbers."
Aldrich, a 6-1, 210-pounder with a powerful swing that cuts an uphill arc from the left side, is batting a team-best .388 for the Cougars (20-9), who are tied for third in the SoCon with a 6-3 league mark. His nine home runs also lead the team, and he's driven in 30 runs.
He drove in four runs, including a three-run triple, in the Cougars' 6-5 win at UNC Wilmington on Wednesday night, and has 12 multi-hit games this season.
"He's been able to step in the middle of our order this year and do a heck of a job," Lee said. "He's got tremendous raw power and is one of the strongest kids we've got on the team."
Aldrich was no secret coming out of Wando. He committed early to South Carolina, where his father Charlie played, then switched to Wake Forest. When things didn't work out with the Deacons, Aldrich finally landed at College of Charleston.
And after all that, he had to sit out last season as a medical redshirt with an arm injury that required surgery.
"I think that helped me a little bit," Aldrich said. "I got to watch the game and see things work and get used to the program and everything. I feel like I have more experience than a normal freshman would."
Aldrich's bat has helped the Cougars win four straight after a stretch of six losses in seven games, including a 24-4 trouncing at USC. And next season, when the Cougars face the possible loss of veteran hitters such as Cole Rakar, Rob Kral, Matt Leeds and Jose Rodriguez, it will be even more important.
"When those guys leave," Lee said, "Daniel will be the centerpiece of our lineup for two or three years, if we can keep him that long."
The Citadel, meanwhile, has lost five straight games to drop to 10-19 overall and 5-10 in the SoCon. The Bulldogs are fighting just to make the eight-team SoCon tournament and have lost 14 games by two runs or fewer.
After blowing an 8-2 lead at Georgia Southern on Sunday and losing 9-0 at Winthrop on Wednesday, the Bulldogs badly need something good to happen.
"We're struggling from a confidence standpoint," said coach Fred Jordan, who will send senior Matt Talley (1-3, 3.72 ERA) to the mound tonight. "But the guys' attitudes are great. We just need to have some success, and we still have half the year to go."
--Game times are at 6 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Sunday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Riley Park ... The Citadel plays host to South Carolina at 7 p.m. Tuesday.