TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Blake Butler got misty-eyed in the ninth inning Monday knowing he was watching some of his College of Charleston teammates take their final college baseball at-bats.
An 8-1 NCAA Tournament loss to Florida State was a finale for seven seniors and probably for pitcher Taylor Clarke, third baseman Carl Wise and center fielder Morgan Phillips, the Cougars’ top junior Major League draft prospects.
Butler, a second baseman named 2015 Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, and pitcher Nathan Helvey also are draft possibilities.
The draft is June 8-10.
But Butler wasn’t looking ahead. He was looking back at a core group that reached two straight NCAA Tournaments and a 2014 Super Regional.
“It’s tough, man, I love those guys,” he said. “I love our coaches. I’m really proud of what we’ve done. I have no doubt that we’re one of the best offenses in the country.”
Head coach Monte Lee was fighting back tears after the game.
“Just a lot of emotions right now,” he said, “such a good group of kids that I have out there. They did some pretty remarkable things for the College of Charleston’s baseball program over the last couple years. It’s tough but on the flipside I’m very proud of them and just very proud of our efforts over the course of this year.”
Clark, a hard-throwing 6-2, 202-pound transfer from Towson, profiles as a closer to some scouts. He went 13-1 as a starter this season with a 1.73 earned run average and – most eye-popping to evaluators – 143 strikeouts in 114.1 innings.
The aggressive-swinging Wise hit .310 with 12 home runs, including one against Auburn in the Tallahassee Regional. Wise had a team-leading 70 runs batted in.
Phillips hit .315 and plays a slick center field. He was picked in the 17th round of the 2011 draft by the Cincinnati Reds out of Frederick Douglas Academy in New York City.
Butler hit .325 with 12 homers. Helvey was 7-4 with a 2.84 ERA.
The Cougars hit seven home runs in the Tallahassee Regional to finish with 75 for the season. That’s far short of the school-record 130 hit in 2008 and only sixth on the single-season record list. But it’s the second-best total since the NCAA mandated new BBCOR bat standards starting with the 2011 season (the Cougars hit 81 homers in 2011).
College of Charleston foes hit just 30 home runs (two by Florida State’s Quincy Nieporte).
Butler led the team with 13 home runs followed by Wise and sophomore Nick Pappas, with 12 apiece, and Bradley Jones with 11.
C – Charlie Madden, Mercer; 1B – Nick Pappas (Charleston), 2B – John Sansone (FSU), SS – Taylor Walls (FSU), 3B – Carl Wise (Charleston), OF – Jackson Burgreen (Auburn), Josh Delph (FSU), DJ Stewart (FSU). P - Boomer Biegalski (FSU), Drew Carlton (FSU).
Most Outstanding Player – Quincy Nieporte (FSU).
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff