Pappas homers twice, leads College of Charleston to 3-2 NCAA Tournament win over Auburn

College of Charleston pitcher Nathan Helvey throws against Auburn in the first inning of a game at the Tallahassee Regional of the NCAA college baseball tournament in Tallahassee, Fla., Sunday, May 31, 2015. The game was delayed due to lightning after the first inning. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A typical NCAA Tournament rain storm delayed the College of Charleston-Auburn game for six hours and 25 minutes Sunday after a scoreless first inning. First baseman Nick Pappas and his Cougar teammates returned to their hotel mid-afternoon, ate food and watched college baseball on TV. Some players took naps.

The return to the ballpark was no yawner.

Pappas homered on the second pitch of the re-start and the sophomore first baseman added a soaring two-run homer to right field in the seventh inning. More than nine hours after the first pitch, the College of Charleston had a 3-2 victory in a Tallahassee Regional elimination game at Dick Howser Stadium.

“I just went out there and saw it,” Pappas said. “I wasn’t looking for any pitches in particular; I just saw it and hit it.”

The College of Charleston plays Monday at 2 p.m. against top seed Florida State with a second game, if necessary, set for 6 p.m.

Head coach Monte Lee is leaning toward pitching Hayden McCutcheon (1-1, 4.33 earned run average) against Florida State.

“We’re very confident, but you have to win two ballgames in one day,” Lee said. “That’s hard, and it’s even harder when you have to play a good team in their ballpark. But this is what you play for.”

The Cougars have seven home runs in the regional. Pappas has three, and 12 for the season.

“He’s one of the best players that I’ve ever coached and I tell him that on a weekly basis, if you ask him,” Lee said of Pappas. “I have a lot of confidence in him and think the world of him. And big-time players step up in big-time games.”

The Cougars opened the regional Friday with a 7-6, 11-inning victory over Auburn but suffered a 3-2 loss to Florida State on Saturday night. Auburn slipped past Mercer, 1-0, in a loser’s bracket game Saturday.

Right-handed reliever Chase Henry (3-1) got the win Sunday. Carter Love, the winner against Auburn on Friday, earned his fourth save.

Reliever Robby Clements (5-1) took the loss for Auburn.

Junior right-hander Nathan Helvey warmed up twice Sunday, took deep breaths and held Auburn to two runs (one earned) over five innings.

Auburn starting pitcher Dalton Rentz also stayed in the game after the delay. He lasted four innings, leaving with the game tied, 1-1.

The Tigers (36-26) left the ballpark wondering how they lost while allowing only four hits and one walk. But the free pass to Blake Butler came just before Pappas’ game-winning blast.

“They’re in the top 25 for a reason,” said Auburn head coach Sunny Golloway, who got the Tigers to a regional for the first time since losing to Clemson in 2010. “They live and die by the sword, so to speak, as far as the long ball and it’s really worked well for them against our team.”

At 45-14 the College of Charleston has the most wins in Monte Lee’s seven years as head coach. Lee’s Cougars finished 44-19 in 2010 and 2014.

The school record for wins (48-15) was set in 2005 when Brett Gardner was a senior and John Pawlowski was head coach.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff