College of Charleston baseball coach Monte Lee has almost run out of accolades to describe junior pitcher Taylor Clarke.
Clarke tossed 8.2 shutout innings and Ryan Brown had three hits and drove in two runs to lead the Cougars past Elon, 9-0, in the second round of the Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Tournament Thursday night at Patriots Point.
The Cougars (42-11) will face UNC Wilmington (34-16), a 16-7 winner over Northeastern, in the next round Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at Patriots Point. The Cougars swept a three-game series against the Seahawks two weeks ago at Patriots Point.
Clarke (13-1) dominated the Phoenix hitters, retiring 14 of 15 batters at one point and striking out 10 and allowing just three hits. The 13 victories for Clarke are a College of Charleston single-season record and tied a CAA record set by Chad Berryman (Virginia Commonwealth University) during the 1998 season.
Clarke now has a school-record 136 strikeouts this season and his ERA dropped to 1.24 after the victory.
“Taylor was outstanding again for us,” Lee said. “He’s the best pitcher I’ve ever had. It’s just that simple. I don’t know that there’s a pitcher in the country with better statistics. To be 13-1 and doing what he’s doing, is pretty amazing.”
Clarke had control of all three of his pitches keeping the Phoenix off-balance throughout the game.
“I felt pretty good out there and I had all three pitches going pretty well,” Clarke said. “I noticed early on that I had all my pitches working for me, so I was just moving the ball in-and-out and getting my offspeed stuff over pretty consistently. The defense was making plays behind me, too.”
The only disappointing thing about the game for Clarke was that he couldn’t finish it after giving up a double with two outs in the ninth.
“(Lee) told me I was on a pitch count before I went out there,” Clark said. “I wanted to get a complete game.”
The Cougars pounded out 12 hits as Brown, a freshman, recorded a single, double and home run for the Cougars.
“Ryan Brown doesn’t play like a freshman,” Lee said. “In my opinion he’s the best freshman in the conference. He’s got a chance to have a really special career when it’s all said and done because of what he does with a bat in his hands. We go as he goes. You look at the games where we’ve played really well and it’s because of Ryan Brown.”
The Cougars grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Brown led off the inning with a double. He scored two batters later when Blake Butler singled to right.
The Cougars added another run to take a 2-0 advantage in the fourth when Nick Pappas doubled to right, took third on a passed ball and scored on Bradley Jones’ sacrifice fly.
College of Charleston pushed their advantage to 5-0 with three runs in the fifth. Morgan Phillips hit a solo home run to start the inning and Ryan Brown smacked a two-run home run to right to highlight the inning.
The Cougars pushed their advantage to 7-0 with two runs, one of them unearned, in the sixth inning.
Charleston took an 8-0 lead when Carl Wise scored on an infield hit from Bradley Jones in the eighth inning.
Charleston added another run in the eighth for the final margin of victory.