The College of Charleston made a habit of dodging adversity with unlikely heroes and crazy comebacks this season. This time, the Cougars need a little help.
But if the NCAA baseball tournament selection committee does its job Sunday, the College of Charleston will bounce back from a 7-6 Colonial Athletic Association Tournament championship loss to UNC Wilmington on Saturday by landing the first-ever Charleston Regional.
Plugged into ratings percentage index data and May madness, back-to-back one-run losses to the Seahawks at Patriots Point shouldn’t unravel a case built over 43 wins worth of hard work.
The 10-member committee will pick the 16 host sites Sunday night and the 64-team field Monday.
“If it’s at home,” Cougars head coach Monte Lee said, “what a great thing for the College of Charleston and for the city of Charleston and for our fans and most importantly, for our players. And if we go on the road, nobody is going to want to play us.”
It’s going to be close.
The College of Charleston entered Saturday at No. 18 on the NCAA’s RPI list, just behind No. 15 Florida Atlantic, No. 16 UC Santa Barbara and No. 17 Radford. Just ahead of No. 20 Coastal Carolina.
The Cougars compare favorably with all four of those teams. They are 4-1 against the RPI Top 25; Florida Atlantic is 1-3, UC Santa Barbara 3-2, Radford 4-6 and Coastal Carolina 3-9.
UC Santa Barbara on Saturday lost the rubber match of a three-game series with UC Riverside.
Florida Atlantic went 2–2 in the Conference USA Tournament.
Formidable and underrated Radford won Big South regular-season and tournament titles (defeating Coastal Carolina on Saturday). But the College of Charleston won a March series with Radford, 2-1.
Coastal Carolina has a nice new on-campus facility and also bid to host a regional. But the College of Charleston went 2-0 against the Chanticleers.
The Cougars won the CAA regular-season title.
“One thing that I think is important to the selection committee if you’re not in a Power 5 conference is, did you win your regular-season championship?” Lee said. “I think that’s a huge deal for them. I think that’s more important to them than a tournament championship.”
After considering Riley Park and getting full cooperation from the minor league Charleston RiverDogs, the school opted to pitch Patriots Point in their official NCAA regional proposal.
The Joe offers three times as many seats as Patriots Point, which has a 2,000 capacity, not including planned temporary bleachers. But the bigger ballpark on the Ashley River plays way differently than cozy Patriots Point, and Lee didn’t want to trade familiarity and competitive advantage for extra seats, Doby’s Deck and Murray’s Mezzanine.
Hard to argue with that.
The downside to Patriots Point is the lack of locker room, batting cage and TV/radio space (plus weightroom and classroom issues). But a truly “home” regional might highlight the blemishes and shame the College of Charleston into fast-tracking much-needed facility upgrades.
That is, visiting players and coaches shouldn’t have to wait in line behind fans to use the bathroom during games.
The Cougars are a deserving baseball team. At 43-13, they have proven it since an opening-day win at South Carolina on Feb. 13.
“If you look at all the Division I programs (on the East Coast) north of Florida, I think we had the best resume,” Lee said. “I don’t think there’s any arguing that.”
Third baseman Carl Wise chimed in with a good point about recent fan enthusiasm possibly tied to a new concession-stand item.
“Another thing that probably helps us,” he said, “is beer sales.”
It will taste so very good at a Charleston Regional.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff