It was the kind of game one comes to expect when The Citadel and College of Charleston get together.
Close, hard-fought with a play here or there deciding the outcome.
College of Charleston sophomore Bradley Jones scored the game-winning run, sliding just underneath the tag, lifting the Cougars past the Bulldogs, 8-7, in 11 innings on a sunny, but cold, Friday at Patriots Point.
The Cougars (2-2) will travel across the Cooper River to take on the Bulldogs (3-2) in the second game of the three-game series Saturday beginning at 2 p.m. at Riley Park. The third game will be Sunday at 1 p.m. back at Patriots Point.
As temperatures hovered around the freezing mark all afternoon, the game featured 19 hits, 10 different pitchers — five from each team — five errors and the common mistakes that teams tend to make early in the season. While the Cougars won’t get any aesthetic points for the victory, the results were just fine by College of Charleston coach Monte Lee.
“It was a heck of a game,” Lee said. “The first thing I told the guys was that I’ll take an ugly win over beautiful loss any day. We found a way to win and that’s the sign of a good team. It’s early in the season and there are so many things that we’ve got to do a better job of before we’re a consistent ball club.”
After squandering a two-run lead in the top of the ninth, the Cougars eventually won the game in extra innings.
Jones opened the 11th inning with a single to left and stole second. Jones got to third on a wild pitch and broke for home when shortstop Champ Rowland hit a sharp grounder up the middle of the infield.
Bulldogs shortstop Johnathan Stokes made a diving stab at the ball and quickly got to his feet. Jones hit the plate just ahead of Stokes’ throw and an instant before Bulldogs catcher Stephen Windham could apply the tag.
“(Jones) was supposed to see it through, but once he saw their shortstop leave his feet to dive for the ball he took off,” Lee said. “That’s a pretty good read, but that’s a tough read with no outs. You got to be pretty smart when you do that. But it worked and we found a way to win. It just seems like a typical game when we get together.”
With Charleston trailing 5-4 in the seventh inning, Carl Wise smacked a three-run homer on a two-strike count to give the Cougars a 7-5 advantage.
“I honestly don’t remember the pitch I got,” said Wise, who had two hits, scored two runs and drove in three. “I told myself before the at bat that I was going to hit the ball hard. I wanted to square up and see what happened. I was fortunate to make pretty good contact with it.”
The Bulldogs answered in the ninth with two runs on a leadoff walk and singles by Austin Mapes and Drew Ellis and a sacrifice fly by Connor Walsh.
“The Citadel competed their rear ends off,” Lee said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen a team play with that kind of energy in a long, long time. I thought their energy level was through the roof and they competed hard.”
Charleston’s Nick Pappas nearly won the game for the Cougars in the bottom of the ninth, but his drive to right-center field was hauled in by Jason Smith at the wall.
The Bulldogs fell behind 3-0 and 4-3 but rallied with single runs in the fifth and seventh, taking a 5-4 lead when Connor Walsh drew a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk.
“It was a great college baseball game,” said Citadel head coach Freddie Jordan. “It’s a big rivalry. Their guys played extremely hard, but so did we. I thought our one and two spots showed a lot of discipline and didn’t try to do too much and Drew Ellis had a big swing for us.”