GAINESVILLE, FLA. — A Baseball America preview of the Gainesville regional describes No. 2 seed Georgia Tech as “loose, confident and dangerous.”
As Rob Harding sees it, that description could also apply to No. 3 College of Charleston, which takes on the Yellow Jackets at 1 p.m. today at Florida’s McKethan Stadium.
“There ain’t a soul in this country that will have us going down there and winning this regional,” said the Cougars’ senior second baseman. “So what do we have to lose?”
Harding admits the Cougars (37-20) were a little tight heading into the Southern Conference tournament last week in Greenville, where an 0-2 flameout put Charleston on the NCAA tournament bubble.
“That was the big thing, that we put too much pressure on ourselves,” Harding said. “Some people thought we should win it, some people didn’t.”
Conventional wisdom had it that the Cougars needed to win a game or two in the SoCon tourney to assure an NCAA bid, but Charleston’s share of the regular season title and RPI-boosting wins over regional qualifiers South Carolina, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State and Samford proved to be enough.
“It would have been heartbreaking to finish our careers the way we played in the SoCon tournament,” said senior center fielder Marty Gantt, named a third-team All-American by Louisville Slugger on Thursday. “I really think that’s already behind us. We’ve been given another shot. The key is to pitch well and play good defense, because I think we’ll swing the bats.”
College of Charleston scored 18 runs in SoCon tourney losses to The Citadel and Elon, but committed seven errors while giving up 22 runs. Neither starting pitcher (Christian Powell and Josh Renfro) went past five innings.
“We have to pitch the way we have all year and play solid defense,” coach Monte Lee said. “We just have to make the routine play. We don’t have a lot of power pitchers. We have guys who throw strikes and pitch to contact, and you have to play defense behind those guys.”
Georgia Tech (36-24), which won the ACC tournament as the eighth seed, will hold back ace pitcher Buck Farmer for a potential matchup with No. 1 seed Florida on Saturday. The Jackets will go with freshman right-hander Cole Pitts (6-4, 4.36 ERA) against the Cougars’ Powell (9-3, 2.39 ERA), the SoCon pitcher of the year.
That bit of risk-taking will be noted in the Cougars’ clubhouse, but Lee is stressing to his players that it doesn’t really matter who the pitcher is, as long as Charleston takes care of its own business.
In his last four starts, Pitts is 2-0 with a 2.97 ERA.
“We’re counting on him to pitch well in this game against College of Charleston and then we’ll proceed from there,” Hall said.
The winner of today’s game will face the Florida/Bethune-Cookman winner at 7 p.m. Saturday, with the losers squaring off at 1 p.m. Saturday.