Cougars off to solid start under Matt Heath

College of Charleston head baseball Matt Heath (photo by Al Samuels).

It’s only been just two weeks and six games into his tenure as a head coach, but College of Charleston’s Matt Heath already likes what he sees from the Cougar

Charleston has already taken a weekend series from a Big Ten opponent and have beaten a nationally-ranked team on the road. The Cougars took two of three games from Nebraska during the opening weekend and then defeated No. 15 Florida State this past Friday night in Tallahassee, Fla.

The Cougars (3-3) will take on No. 19 Coastal Carolina Wednesday afternoon beginning at 5 p.m. at Patriots Point.

“I think we’ve got the potential to be a pretty good team,” Heath said on Tuesday. “There are a couple of things that we’ll need to iron out. We want our bullpen to be a little more consistent and we need to get healthy, but overall, I’ve been pretty pleased with the way we’ve played the first two weekends.”

The Cougars starting pitching has been impressive during the first two weeks, especially senior Nathan Helvey, who was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s pitcher of the week.

Helvey allowed just two hits over 5.1 shutout innings and earned the win as College of Charleston knocked off 15th-ranked Florida State, 2-1, last Friday. The senior right-hander didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and struck out three. He earned a no-decision in the season opener against Nebraska with six shutout innings and hasn’t allowed a run in over 11.1 innings to start the season.

“Nathan has really been impressive in his first two starts,” Heath said. “Nathan had a great fall and really earned the right to be a Friday night starter for us. He’s been great so far. He’s someone we’re going to lean on pretty heavily this season.”

Charleston had to replace their entire infield from a year ago, but Heath said this might the best defensive team the Cougars have head since he joined the program as an assistant coach in 2011.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys playing for us right now, but defensively they’ve been outstanding,” Heath said. “So far, we’ve not given teams too many extra outs, which is very important.”

One of those young players is freshman Dupree Hart, who is starting at second base and has been plugged into the lead off spot in the Cougars lineup. Hart is hitting .333 with two doubles and six runs batted in.

“Dupree is going to be a special player for us,” Heath said. “He had a great series against Nebraska.”

With the return of Morgan Phillips, who missed the opening series against the Cornhuskers, and senior Alex Pastorius in the next week, the Cougars will only get better offensively, Heath said. Pastorius had nine homers and drove in 40 runs a year ago.

“I think we’ve got a chance to be a really good offensive team,” Heath said. “We need to get these young guys some at bats and Alex will give us another power hitter, so I think we’ve got the opportunity to score some runs.”

Heath said there is some temptation to use a weekend starter against a nationally-ranked team like Coastal Carolina, but he said he’ll stick with his rotation against the Chanticleers.

“Not sure who we’ll start against Coastal,” Heath said. “It’s an important game, Coastal is a very good team, but we’ll stick with what’s work for us in the past. It’s tempting to put in one of your weekend starters, but we want to give one of our younger guys a chance to show what he can do. Someone that down the road will probably be weekend starter for us.”