CHARLESTON 7, THE CITADEL 1
MOUNT PLEASANT -- After watching his team blow a four-run lead in the ninth inning on Sunday, College of Charleston baseball coach Monte Lee wanted the Cougars to relax and have fun Tuesday against The Citadel.
Not an easy task, with Charleston's at-large hopes for the NCAA playoffs hanging by a thread.
But the Cougars managed to have their fun in a 7-1 win over the Bulldogs at Patriots Point, thanks to pitchers Jake Zokan and Casey Lucchese, shortstop Jamie Holler and plenty of help from The Citadel.
The Bulldogs (20-28) committed three errors and had two runners picked off while losing their fourth straight game. The Cougars improved to 32-17 and put Sunday's debacle against UNC Greensboro -- giving up seven runs in the ninth inning of a 9-6 loss -- behind them.
"Obviously, Sunday's loss was tough," Lee said. "But our guys bounced back relatively quickly. Zokan threw the ball well. He gave us a lot more than I could have asked for out of him."
Zokan (2-1), a sophomore lefty, gave up just five hits and one unearned run in seven innings, walking one and striking out five, and Lucchese allowed just one hit in two innings for his third save.
Holler, the Cougars' senior shortstop, was 3 of 4 with two runs batted-in, including a two-run double in the five-run eighth.
The Cougars stood at No. 64 in RPI rankings heading into Tuesday's game, with seven games left in the regular season. Charleston was No. 29 in the RPI when it earned an at-large bid last season.
"At this point, we've played well, we've played bad, we've done it all," Lee said. "At this point of the year, it's about having fun and relaxing. I tried to be as loose as I could tonight, and told our guys to have fun, let's joke around in the dugout. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform, and sometimes that's not the right way to go about it."
Tuesday's game did not count in Southern Conference standings, but pressure is mounting on The Citadel as it tries to squeeze into the eight-team SoCon tournament at its own Riley Park. The Bulldogs are tied for eighth with Wofford and Western Carolina, all with 8-16 league records. If the season ended today, Western Carolina would make the tournament via tiebreaker.
Citadel coach Fred Jordan made a quick exit after the Bulldogs' three errors pushed their season total to 84, worst in the SoCon. The Citadel could not take advantage of another solid pitching performance, as former Hanahan High School standout Bryce Hines struck out nine and allowed four hits and one earned run in five innings.
Charleston snapped a 1-1 tie with a two-out run in the fifth with help of a two-base throwing error. Holler singled with two out, went to second on a wild pitch and scored when third baseman Drew DeKerlegand bounced a throw to first.
A walk, a wild pitch and another error helped the Cougars break it open with five in the eighth. Rob Harding stroked an RBI single, Holler belted a two-run double off the wall in left, and Marty Gantt finished it off with an RBI double.
The Bulldogs scored first when Josh Pless singled in the third, ran all the way to third on a two-base throwing error by Cougars catcher Rob Kral, and scored on Nick Orvin's sacrifice fly.
Hines struck out the first four and five of the first six batters he faced, butKral made up for his error by leading off the fourth with a home run to right, his eighth, to tie it at 1-1.