It's a new week for the baseball teams at the College of Charleston, The Citadel and Charleston Southern, and it's the most important week of the season.
This is tournament week for the Colonial Athletic Association, Southern Conference and Big South Conference, and that means the dream of playing in the NCAA tournament is still alive.
At-large bids are a long shot, if not an impossibility. It usually takes at least 40 wins and a high RPI to earn one of those spots. College of Charleston came close to the 40-win threshold, finishing 38-17. But the Cougars' NCAA RPI entering the final week of the season was 73. The Citadel finished last in the Southern Conference and had an RPI of 202 with an overall record of 23-32. Charleston Southern's RPI was 207 after a 30-24 season.
"Now we have a chance to play our way into a regional, which is all we could ask for when we were 2-11 in conference play," said CSU coach Stuart Lake, voicing the thoughts of coaches and players at the three schools.
So this week it's win or go home.
The Cougars were picked to finish second in their first year of playing in the CAA, and that's exactly what happened, although they could have won the league and earned the No. 1 seed if not for a final-game loss to William and Mary.
College of Charleston needed a sweep of the series and won the first two contests, including a 23-inning marathon that tied the NCAA record for the second longest game played.
The six-team CAA tournament begins Wednesday at UNC Wilmington, but the second-seeded Cougars won't play until 3:30 p.m. Thursday when they face the winner of the No. 3 UNC Wilmington-No. 6 James Madison contest.
College of Charleston swept James Madison at home but went 1-2 against the Seahawks on the road in early May.
May was a good month for the Cougars, who were 7-4. The Cougars won 11 of their final 15 games.
The Southern Conference tournament opens Tuesday at Riley Park with the host Citadel Bulldogs, seeded No. 10, facing defending champion and seventh-seeded Elon at 3:30 p.m. in the play-in round.
It has been a disappointing season for the Bulldogs, who were picked to finish second but wound up last with an 8-18 league record. But The Citadel finished off the regular season with a three-game sweep of UNC Greensboro and went 6-3 in its last nine SoCon games.
The Citadel (23-32) lost a three-game series to the Phoenix (27-25, 12-15) in March and Elon struggled at the end of the year, winning only two of its last 10 league games.
The Buccaneers finished the regular season No. 3 in the Big South's South Division, turning in a 30-24 record, and were 12-14 in league games. The 30 wins tied a school record against an all-Division I schedule. Charleston Southern will be the No. 7 overall seed in the tournament that begins Tuesday at Winthrop University Ballpark in Rock Hill.
CSU will open the tournament at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday against No. 2 seed Winthrop, the South Division champion. They will play again Wednesday in the double-elimination tournament, facing the Campbell-Coastal Carolina winner if they beat Winthrop or the loser of that game if the Buccaneers lose to the Eagles.
CSU went 7-4 during May and won 13 of its last 17 games. Included in that strong finish was a three-game sweep of Winthrop.