With Monday's heartbreaking loss to Coastal Carolina in the Myrtle Beach Regional still fresh in the rearview mirror, College of Charleston baseball coach Monte Lee and his returning players can only look to next year.
The Cougars (44-19) thought they had scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning when Joey Bergman hit a slow roller that glanced off the pitcher's glove. But Coastal's shortstop made a great barehanded catch and throw, and Bergman was called out on a questionable bang-bang play. Coastal scored in the 10th inning on a wild pitch to advance to a super regional matchup against South Carolina this weekend.
Lee said he was disappointed for his players -- especially the ones he is losing -- but is optimistic about the Cougars making another run at qualifying for the regionals next year. This was Charleston's fourth regional appearance, but the first since 2006.
"Just on paper, we have 10 position guys who had significant at-bats, and eight arms that pitched a good bit," Lee said. "The big thing will be to try and replace our bullpen."
The Cougars' biggest offensive losses are second baseman Bergman (.335, 5 HRs), who was the 2009 Southern Conference player of the year, and first baseman Greg Blake (.323, 17 HRs). Also gone are starting pitcher Kevin Decker (8-0, 3.78 ERA), along with bullpen regulars Tom Schiller, Owen Brittle and Heath Hembree. But Lee said he felt the Cougars will have plenty of arms, led by returning starters David Peterson and Christian Powell. He expects freshman Dre Watts, used as both a relief pitcher as well as a designated hitter, to see more action on the mound next season.
"From one year to the next, I don't know if we could have done much more as far as trying to get better on the mound," Lee said. "I think we did a pretty decent job of bringing in guys that could help us. But we're not where we want to be.
"The best teams in the country are the ones that get better as games go on. Once your starter gets to 100 pitches or so, if you can run an arm out that's better than him, you've got a good team. At some point, we want to be in that position, whether it's next year or the year after."