C of C’s Wise a big miss for USC, Clemson

The College of Charleston's Carl Wise leads the Cougars in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage this season. Al Samuels photo

The Carl Wise recruiting process wasn’t very complicated for the College of Charleston. Three years ago, Cougars head coach Monte Lee placed a phone call.

Wise: “Hello.”

Lee: “Hi, Carl, this is Coach Lee. Do you want to play for the College of …”

Wise: “Yes.”

The Cougars lucked out without having to conduct as much as a campus tour. Overlooked by South Carolina, Clemson and every other NCAA Division I school but Charleston Southern, Wise has become the catalyst hitter in the No. 20 Cougars’ torrid lineup. The junior from Lexington’s White Knoll High School is batting .352 and leads the team in home runs (10), runs batting in (45) and slugging percentage (.669) going into Wednesday night’s game against Coastal Carolina at Patriots Point.

It worked out for Wise, too.

“I had always wanted to come to the College of Charleston; I just love Charleston, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” he said. “So I was kind of holding off after I got an offer from Charleston Southern. Coach Lee called me about a week later.”

The Gamecocks and Tigers could certainly use a guy like Wise as they face the unlikely late-season task of having to play their way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. What college team wouldn’t want a hitter major league scouts combing the Lowcountry the last few weeks project to go within the top 10-12 rounds of the 2015 draft in June?

Versatility is part of the attraction.

Wise (6-2, 218) might be able to play left field, or catcher.

There isn’t any question about his grit.

“Carl Wise ever since he’s been here has a consistency in how he prepares himself every single day,” Lee said. “His focus, his attention to detail, how he practices, his intensity in practice — it’s a constant. He’s 100 percent in at all times. The kid never seems to take a rep off or a pitch off in a baseball game.”

Lee also appreciates that when Wise strikes out or makes an error, he doesn’t throw things, punch dugout walls or show much negative emotion at all.

The whole Wise way tends to rub off on other players. He was voted a team captain despite rarely leading with words.

The College of Charleston leads the Colonial Athletic Association in hitting, with a .316 team batting average. The Cougars hit .255 last year when they made the NCAA Tournament but suffered a pair of 1-0 Super Regional losses at Texas Tech.

“This year I’ve been just focused on staying smooth, and the whole team has been focused on that, too,” Wise said. “It’s just, ‘Stay smooth in your swing, don’t over-do anything.’ See the ball and hit it, that’s about it.”

Wise knows the College of Charleston is the only nationally ranked team in the state right now, and that South Carolina and Clemson are struggling. He played in an NCAA Tournament Super Regional last June; the Gamecocks and Tigers didn’t.

But far from boasting, Wise is just happy he ended up playing for the Cougars after a last-minute scholarship offer.

“I like smaller schools,” Wise said. “You can get lost in a bigger program. Things can happen.”

Lee is thrilled with steady production from the third spot in the batting order.

“I think Carl could play for anybody in any conference in the country,” Lee said. “But it happens in the recruiting process. There have been a lot of kids we’ve had that have done well that got their only scholarship offer from us.

“Thank God we signed Carl, because he’s been really good for us ever since.”

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff