Cougars advance to CAA title game

The College of Charleston celebrates its win over William & Mary during the CAA tournament on Friday afternoon.

William & Mary came into the Colonial Athletic Association baseball tournament as one of the top hitting teams in the nation.

That didn't seem to impress College of Charleston freshman pitcher Bailey Ober.

Ober pitched a complete-game five-hitter to lead the College of Charleston past William & Mary, 3-1, Friday afternoon in the semifinals of the CAA baseball tournament at Brooks Field in Wilmington, N.C.

With the victory, the Cougars (40-17) advance to Saturday's championship game against an opponent to be determined. The top-seeded Tribe (33-21), which won the CAA regular-season crown, will have to win Friday night to get back into Saturday's championship game.

William & Mary entered the game hitting a league-leading .313 at the plate, scoring 435 runs.

Ober was as efficient as he was dominant.

The CAA Rookie of the Year needed only 95 pitches to post his second complete game of the year. He retired William & Mary in order five times and registered four strikeouts with no walks. He was the only pitcher all season to defeat William & Mary twice.

The Huntersville, N.C., native improved to 9-2 with the victory and lowered his league-leading ERA to 1.37, which is tops among all freshmen in the country this season. Ober has led the conference nearly all season in ERA and opposing batting average (.183). Ober's ERA is currently the best among any starting pitcher in College of Charleston program history. Ober's complete game was the first in a conference tournament for the Cougars since 2008 when Jesse Simpson went the distance against Western Carolina.

"I just went in there and tried to execute every pitch," Ober said. "Our defense played really well today and getting ahead of hitters really helped. You try to race to two strikes as a hitter and really pound the zone. The motto for us as pitchers is just to keep attacking."

Ober's performance against one of the top hitting teams in the nation came as no surprise to College of Charleston coach Monte Lee.

"Bailey Ober did what Bailey Ober does," said College of Charleston coach Monte Lee. "He shut down one of the best offenses in the country, and I think there's a reason why he's the best pitcher in this conference. Our guys are loose and having fun together. I'm very proud of them right now."

The Cougars jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when freshman first baseman Nick Pappas led off the inning with a line drive over the wall in right for his fourth homer of the year. Charleston tacked on another run in the third. Shortstop Champ Rowland doubled to left to open the inning. Blake Butler followed with an RBI single to right center that brought Rowland home.

The Cougars pushed their advantage to 3-0 in the fifth when left fielder Brandon Murray, who was playing in just his fifth game after missing six weeks with a broken forearm, smacked an opposite field homer to left center. The homer was his sixth of the year.

"Offensively, I thought we've been very good these past two games," Lee said. "Even though we only scored two runs today, I thought we took some good swings and had some good approaches."

William & Mary, which didn't get its first hit until the fourth inning, finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth. Sophomore outfielder Josh Smith, who smacked a grand slam in Thursday's win over Delaware, led off the inning with a solo shot to left to make it 3-1.

However, the Tribe would only manage three singles off Ober over the final four innings and none reached second base.

The 2008 season also was the last time that College of Charleston advanced to a conference tournament title game, losing to Elon that season in the SoCon title match. The Cougars won their only conference tournament banner in 2006 with a win over The Citadel.

Rowland and Brandon Glazer each went 2-for-4 to pace the Cougars offensively.