The biggest debate so far this Southern Conference tournament: Which at-bat was better?
Justin Brewer's pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth inning?
Or his epic 10-pitch walk in the bottom of the 11th?
No. 7 seed Appalachian State showed why the SoCon is lauded for its depth this year, taking No. 2 College of Charleston to the mat and then some Wednesday before the Cougars won the first game of the tournament, 12-11, in 11 innings at The Joe.
But Brewer personifies the deep talent pool head coach Monte Lee has used to lock up at least an at-large bid to next week's NCAA tournament. The senior from Greer twice got the best of Appalachian State star closer Chris Patterson to get Charleston into the winners bracket. His lead-off homer started a two-run ninth inning.
The walk was the glue in a glorious 11th capped by Rob Kral's game-winning single.
"I don't know," Lee said when asked to compare Brewer performances. "They were both awfully impressive."
But, upon several seconds of deep reflection …
"The second at-bat was probably more impressive than the first at-bat," Lee said. "Patterson just made a mistake over the plate (on the home run), but I have to give Justin credit for putting a good swing on it. And then the second at-bat; I mean, that was the key to the game in my opinion. That was the biggest at-bat of the whole ballgame."
No. 2 seed-worthy
Secretly, much of the SoCon might have been pulling for Appalachian
Justin credit for putting a good swing on it. And then the second at-bat; I mean, that was the key to the game in my opinion. That was the biggest at-bat of the whole ballgame."
No. 2 seed-worthy
Secretly, much of the SoCon might have been pulling for Appalachian State. The Southern Conference wants, and probably deserves, three teams in the NCAA tournament. But despite a league Ratings Percentage Index rank generally around No. 9 and six teams among the RPI top 64, that third entry is a tough sell.
The Citadel, regular season champs and No. 35 on two prominent RPI lists (Boyd's World and Warren Nolan), seems solid.
Maybe Elon (RPI No. 45 at Boyd's World) or another team will win the SoCon tournament automatic berth.
Only the Cougars are a sure thing, eyeing a No. 2 NCAA regional seed at No. 25 in the two RPI rankings.
But did anyone think Appalachian State was going to come out of the mountains, dodge Charlotte traffic, come in here and roll over?
Well, yes, frankly. A lot of people.
The Mountaineers showed up Wednesday morning 0-for- the Lowcountry in 2010. Appalachian State was swept in its regular season series against The Citadel and Charleston. Elon swept the Mountaineers, too, making that 14-14-1 SoCon record seem a bit bottom heavy.
What good teams do
So, of course, Charleston needed extra innings, luck and a substitute hero.
Brewer, 5-9, doesn't look the part.
Patterson and his 1-0 fastball have newfound respect.
The 10-pitch walk was a purist's dream. Brewer fought off slider after slider to draw ball four.
"It feels good to have an at-bat like that, especially to come out on the winning end of it," Brewer said. "That was probably one of the best at-bats I've ever had in my career. It was a lot of fun."
This is what good teams do, win when dark clouds are gathering -- literally and figuratively. Have role players come through.
Win different ways.
Sometimes those ways involve the same role player in the same set of extra innings.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.