MOUNT PLEASANT — With the bases loaded and The Citadel’s best hitter at the plate Friday night, Josh Renfro flashed back to the clutch pitches he made in College of Charleston’s upset of No. 9 South Carolina earlier this week.
“I wanted to take that momentum and that focus and carry it over to this situation,” said Renfro, who was trying to preserve a four-run lead in the fifth inning when the Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out and senior Justin Mackert to the plate.
Renfro struck out Mackert, who had homered in the third, and for good measure also whiffed cleanup hitter Joe Jackson to end the threat. The Cougars, riding two doubles and three RBIs from Marty Gantt, went on to an 8-4 victory over the Bulldogs before 568 fans at Patriots Point.
“That was a really big situation,” said Cougars coach Monte Lee. “They could have done some damage right there, and Josh was able to make some pitches to two good hitters. That was really the ball game for us right there.”
The effort by Renfro (6-3), who gave up just four hits and one earned run over six innings, helped the Cougars improve a postseason resume that was bolstered considerably by Tuesday’s 4-3 win at two-time defending national champion South Carolina. Charleston is 27-12 overall and in the thick of the chase for the regular season title at 15-7 in the Southern Conference.
“Our guys understand that we have to play every single game with a sense of urgency,” said Lee. “They know what’s at stake if we want to play in the postseason.”
The Bulldogs (17-22, 7-9), meanwhile, are scrapping to make the eight-team SoCon tournament.
Citadel starter Austin Pritcher (4-3) did not have the same stuff he had in last Friday’s 3-0 win over UNC Greensboro, when he pitched a complete-game four-hitter. The Cougars roughed him up for 11 hits and six earned runs over 42/3 innings.
“They had a great approach against him,” said Citadel coach Fred Jordan. “They really went backside on him and had some key hits the other way. They strung them together there in the (four-run) third, but we had a chance in the fifth. You have to credit Renfro, he did a great job of getting our No. 3 and No. 4 hitters to chase.”
Down 2-0, Charleston broke through against Pritcher with four runs in the third, after a Citadel error gave the Cougars their first baserunner of the game.
Gunnar Heidt and Gantt followed with RBI doubles for two runs, and Gantt motored right through a stop sign at third to score the go-ahead run on Bradley Goodson’s high-hop single. Brandon Murray fisted a single to left to plate Goodson with the fourth run.
Charleston added two more in the fourth as Gantt smoked a two-run double to left for a 6-2 lead, and added single runs in the fifth and sixth.
The Bulldogs broke on top in the second when Drew DeKerlegand reached on an error and raced to third on Calvin Orth’s double to the left-center gap. DeKerlegand scored on a groundout by Johnathan Stokes for a 1-0 lead.
Mackert made it 2-0 in the third, slugging a two-out home run just to the right of the “Green Monster” in left field. It was the fifth homer of the year for the Citadel senior.
The teams meet again at 3 p.m. today and finish the series at 1 p.m. Sunday.