GREENVILLE — Despite playing from behind the entire game, College of Charleston found itself with the upper hand in the bottom of the ninth inning.
With right fielder Daniel Aldrich, one of the most dangerous hitters in the Cougars’ lineup, batting with runners on second and third and one out, College of Charleston had the winning run at the plate.
But as quickly as the Cougars had the upper hand, they lost it when Aldrich popped up to the second baseman, dashing the Collge of Charleston’s rally in a 14-12 loss to Elon in an elimination game of the Southern Conference baseball tournament.
“I’d put Daniel in that spot again over and over because I know I have so much faith in him that he’s going to get the job done,” said senior center fielder Marty Gantt. “Today, it just didn’t happen.”
Going 0-2 in the conference tournament leaves the Cougars on the bubble for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
Charleston (37-20) had an RPI of 40 entering the tournament, but after losses to Elon (32-25) and The Citadel (25-31) in the SoCon tournament, its rating will surely take a hit.
“We weren’t in a position to say that we were definitely in,” Cougars coach Monte Lee said. “I’d say that we were probably in going into the tournament, but you can never say that you’re definitely in. Two games and out definitely will hurt us.”
Defensive miscues also hurt the Cougars. They got off to a shaky start, recording their fifth error of the tournament before surrendering two unearned runs to the Phoenix in the top of the first. The trouble continued in the top of the second, as Elon extended its lead to 6-0 with four unearned runs after College of Charleston’s second error of the game.
“I think when you make that first error in the ball game, the toughest thing as a baseball player is to be able to move on from it and let it go and go back to playing,” Lee said. “You tend to get frustrated by it and you tend to try to do too much, and that’s when you start making mistakes.”
Despite the early deficit, the Cougars were able to plate four runs in the last two innings to be in a position to tie or get a walk-off victory in the bottom of the ninth. Aldrich, who was Collegiate Baseball’s freshman player of the year last season, had one hit and five strikeouts in the tournament, but still had Elon on its heels for an inning.
“With Aldrich up, when he has a chance to win the game, that’s not exactly the guy you want to see there,” said Elon first baseman Ryan Kinsella.
Unable to capitalize and out of the SoCon Tournament, the Cougars are now in the difficult position of waiting to find out if their season is over.
“All we can do right now is play the waiting game — that’s really all we can do,” Lee said. “We’ll probably give them a couple days off and just try to see what happens once Monday gets here. That’s really the tough part now.”
The NCAA will announce the 64 teams in the baseball tournament on Monday.