Cole Rakar was already on hand when Monte Lee was named as the College of Charleston baseball coach two seasons ago. But the Cougars' junior center fielder, a former Wando High School standout, is the prototype player Lee wants in the program.
"You get a bunch of guys like him and you're going to have a really good program," Lee said. "Cole Rakar could play for anybody in the country. You're looking at a guy that can do a lot of different things. He can hit for average (a team-high batting average of .369). He can hit for power (six home runs and a team-high 26 doubles). He can steal bases (20 out of 25 attempts, also a team high). He can score a bunch of runs (team-high 69). He's also a guy who can drive in a bunch of runs (48, fifth on the team).
"When you're looking at a productive offensive player, he's about as good as it gets. There are not any glaring weaknesses in his game."
Lee said Rakar isn't a vocal player, just a hard-nosed player who loves the game. He expects that competitive spirit to shine when the College of Charleston (42-17) heads to Myrtle Beach this weekend to compete in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
The Cougars are the No. 2 seed in a regional that includes top-seeded Coastal Carolina (51-7), No. 3 seed North Carolina State (38-22) and No. 4 Stony Brook (29-25). Charleston faces N.C. State at 7 p.m. Friday, while Coastal Carolina and Stony Brook meet at 1 p.m. Friday.
"I'm happy with my year, but there's always room for improvement. There were things I would like to have done better. Anybody would," Rakar said earlier this week after learning the Cougars had made the NCAA regional for the first time since he picked Charleston over The Citadel.
"Words can't say how happy we are. This is my third year here. We've been on the bubble for two years and finally we got in," Rakar said. "Obviously, we didn't play that well in the (Southern Conference) tournament. But we weren't worried about getting in. We proved during the season that we deserved to be in."
Rakar said he felt at the beginning of the season that the Cougars were capable of making the NCAA tournament field. And after winning only one game in the SoCon tournament, this weekend represents an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.
"We had a ton of new guys playing," he said. "But after about 10 games or so, we kind of settled in and realized we had a good club. We can beat anybody out there, I think. There are not a lot of holes in our lineup. We've got some solid arms this year. (David) Peterson and (Kyle) Decker have been quality starters. And we swing it pretty much through the lineup."
Rakar feels the Cougars are optimistic about their chances in the postseason.
"I'm pretty confident if we play good baseball there's no teams we can't play with," Rakar said. "Every guy on the team thinks the same thing. That's the great thing about college baseball. Any team can get hot and make a run and beat anybody. It's exciting."