It was somewhere during the fifth inning — when The Citadel sent 15 batters to the plate and scored 12 runs on eight hits — that it all seemed to become a little unreal.
"When we put up that 12 spot, I knew we had something going," said Bulldogs senior Barrett Charpia, reflecting on The Citadel's record-setting 34-8 win over Winthrop on Tuesday at Riley Park. "Stuff just started to fall in. I remember their first baseman said, 'Ya'll keep finding gaps and everything is falling in.'
"By then, it seemed sort of surreal."
Surreal enough that one wag on Twitter wrote, "Looks like Winthrop had a hard time handling the triple option."
The football-like score marked the most runs on the most hits (34) in Citadel baseball history, breaking marks that were set in 1982. The 34 runs also is the highest run total in Division I this season.
Citadel coach Fred Jordan, now in his 26th season, has seen much of that history. But he'd never seen anything like Tuesday's onslaught, which included four home runs and six doubles.
"It was an amazing day for our club offensively," said Jordan. "I don't know if I've ever witnessed that type of production, in a relatively clean game. Most of the time in a game like that, there are a lot of walks and errors. But this one was relatively clean."
Winthrop pitchers did walk 11 Bulldogs, but the Eagles committed only one error and even turned a double play. And yes, the wind at Riley Park was blowing out to left in the early innings.
The Citadel (5-10), which had been scuffling along with a .216 team batting average and 3.8 runs per game, simply started hitting in the first inning — Jonathan Sabo and Charpia each slugged the first of two home runs in the opening frame — and didn't stop.
The numbers were astounding. Charpia was 5 of 8, with two three-run home runs and nine runs batted in, one shy of the school record. Sabo was 5 of 8 with five RBI and six runs scored. Taylor Cothran had four hits, four RBI and scored six runs; Ben Peden had three hits, four RBI and four runs; freshman J.D. Davis went 4 for 4, raising his average from .135 to .220; and William Kinney was 6 of 7 with six RBI, five runs and four doubles.
"It just became contagious," said Charpia, whose average went from .174 to .290. "We started that first inning and grabbed five runs real quick, and then everybody knew they could get a hit. It kept rolling."
After scoring 13 runs while losing two of three to Stetson last weekend, the Bulldogs focused on re-setting their approach at the plate and trying to keep things simple.
"Some of our guys were swinging at pitches that Babe Ruth couldn't hit," Jordan said. "We worked on our approach at the plate and our two-strike approach, and to the players' credit, they executed. Can they do it like that every day? Absolutely not, the game's too cruel. But I hope this will be a shot in the arm and get us going a little bit."
Charpia said it was good to see "QUABS" — quality at-bats — turn into production.
"We try to have 50 percent QUABS in a game and 54 percent for a season," he said. "I'd say we beat that (Tuesday)."
The outburst turbo-boosted the Bulldogs' stats, raising the team batting average from .216 to .259, and runs per game from 3.8 to 5.8. Before the Winthrop game, The Citadel had only two hitters batting more than .250; now they have seven.
"I hope it creates a confidence level because we know we've done it and we can do it again," Charpia said. "It might not be 34 hits in a game, but we know we have the ability to beat anybody and hit any kind of pitching."
That will be put to the test this weekend as the Bulldogs host 4-2 Dartmouth for a four-game set starting Thursday. Last weekend, the Big Green won two out of three at traditional power Miami — and shut out the Hurricanes twice.
Reach Jeff Hartsell at (843) 937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC