Post and Courier
May 28, 2012
South Carolina, Clemson, the College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina nervously await today's unveiling of the 64-team NCAA baseball tournament bracket (ESPNU, noon) — for four different reasons:
College of Charleston
Big question: Are the Cougars in?
Case against: 0-2 in the Southern Conference tournament. Samford winner gets an automatic bid as SoCon tourney champion, and Appalachian State, which won a series at LSU, is an at-large lock. The SoCon has received two or fewer NCAA bids every year expect one (2010).
Case for: Monte Lee's deep pitching staff and resourceful offense won at South Carolina, got its first win ever against Clemson, and beat Coastal Carolina — all since April 17. The Cougars (No. 44 Ratings Percentage Index, 37-20) have almost the same RPI and record as Elon did when landing a third bid for the SoCon in 2010.
Big question: Will the two-time defending College World Series champion get one of the precious national seeds given to the top eight teams in the tournament, almost ensuring super regional home games?
Case against: Despite a No. 12 RPI, South Carolina did not win a series against a team with a better RPI than No. 19 Arkansas.
Case for: 18-11 in the rugged SEC after a 1-5 start, and those sure 8,242 sellouts at Carolina Stadium.
Verdict: Yes, edging Stanford and Purdue for the last national seed.
Big question: Can the Tigers get a regional draw that allows them to advance to a super regional as a No. 2 seed?
Case against: A shaky No. 31 RPI.
Case for: 3-1 against sure national seed Florida State over the last two weeks and the nation's No. 6 strength of schedule, thanks to the ACC (again rated college baseball's toughest conference).
“We're a team people might not want to play if we come their way,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said at the ACC tournament in Greensboro.
Verdict: Not quite, just too inconsistent.
Big question: Will the Chanticleers suffer with the NCAA selection committee because of Josh Conway's Tommy John surgery?
Case against: Conway, rated as the top college pitching prospect in the state entering the season, went out with an elbow injury in late April.
Case for: Coastal Carolina won Big South regular season and tournament titles without Conway, relying on pitchers such as Bishop England High School graduate Ryan Connolly, the star of the Big South championship game win over Liberty.
Verdict: No, Coastal Carolina with a No. 39 RPI is a solid No. 3 seed that will play close to home.
Post and Courier
May 25, 2012
GREENVILLE — Despite playing from behind the entire game, College of Charleston found itself with the upper hand in the bottom of the ninth inning.
With right fielder Daniel Aldrich, one of the most dangerous hitters in the Cougars’ lineup, batting with runners on second and third and one out, College of Charleston had the winning run at the plate.
But as quickly as the Cougars had the upper hand, they lost it when Aldrich popped up to the second baseman, dashing the Collge of Charleston’s rally in a 14-12 loss to Elon in an elimination game of the Southern Conference baseball tournament.
“I’d put Daniel in that spot again over and over because I know I have so much faith in him that he’s going to get the job done,” said senior center fielder Marty Gantt. “Today, it just didn’t happen.”
Going 0-2 in the conference tournament leaves the Cougars on the bubble for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
Charleston (37-20) had an RPI of 40 entering the tournament, but after losses to Elon (32-25) and The Citadel (25-31) in the SoCon tournament, its rating will surely take a hit.
“We weren’t in a position to say that we were definitely in,” Cougars coach Monte Lee said. “I’d say that we were probably in going into the tournament, but you can never say that you’re definitely in. Two games and out definitely will hurt us.”
Defensive miscues also hurt the Cougars. They got off to a shaky start, recording their fifth error of the tournament before surrendering two unearned runs to the Phoenix in the top of the first. The trouble continued in the top of the second, as Elon extended its lead to 6-0 with four unearned runs after College of Charleston’s second error of the game.
“I think when you make that first error in the ball game, the toughest thing as a baseball player is to be able to move on from it and let it go and go back to playing,” Lee said. “You tend to get frustrated by it and you tend to try to do too much, and that’s when you start making mistakes.”
Despite the early deficit, the Cougars were able to plate four runs in the last two innings to be in a position to tie or get a walk-off victory in the bottom of the ninth. Aldrich, who was Collegiate Baseball’s freshman player of the year last season, had one hit and five strikeouts in the tournament, but still had Elon on its heels for an inning.
“With Aldrich up, when he has a chance to win the game, that’s not exactly the guy you want to see there,” said Elon first baseman Ryan Kinsella.
Unable to capitalize and out of the SoCon Tournament, the Cougars are now in the difficult position of waiting to find out if their season is over.
“All we can do right now is play the waiting game — that’s really all we can do,” Lee said. “We’ll probably give them a couple days off and just try to see what happens once Monday gets here. That’s really the tough part now.”
The NCAA will announce the 64 teams in the baseball tournament on Monday.
Post and Courier
May 24, 2012
GREENVILLE —The last time The Citadel senior pitcher T.J. Clarkson ran the bases, he was thrown out at home as a pinch runner in February.
With a first-round Southern Conference tournament game against No. 2 seed College of Charleston tied in extra innings Wednesday, Clarkson had a better outcome. He scored the go-ahead run from first on a double by right fielder Tyler Griffin, boosting the No. 7 seed Bulldogs to an 8-6 upset of the Cougars at Fluor Field.
Bulldogs coach Fred Jordan told Clarkson before his second at-bat of the season to hit it over the wall if he had to swing. The pitcher managed a ground ball to second, reaching base with one out in the top of the 11th.
“I was just trying to make sure I wasn’t going to get picked off,” Clarkson said. “He hit it and I saw he hit it far, so I was just trying to run as fast as I could.”
Griffin came home for an insurance run, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t need it. Clarkson was able to halt the Cougars’ rally, working 31/3 innings of scoreless relief after Charleston overcame a four-run deficit to tie in the bottom of the eighth.
“I thought (Clarkson) did a tremendous job of stopping the eighth by getting a groundout,” Jordan said. “He was probably as good as he’s been in the 11th, and I was concerned because he had just scored from first and all the emotions.”
Jordan doesn’t need to talk about NCAA tournament projections or RPI with his team, as the Bulldogs (25-31) are well aware that without a SoCon title and an automatic bid, the season ends after the SoCon tournament.
For College of Charleston (37-19), a team on the bubble for an NCAA tournament at-large bid with an RPI of 40, the loss hurt. It will likely need to win at least two games in the tournament to secure a bid.
“We understand where we’re at in terms of the conference tournament and also trying to put ourselves in a position to get into the postseason,” said Charleston coach Monte Lee. “We understand that we need to play well this week — I think that’s important. There’s no given that we’re going to get into the field of 64.”
Charleston got off to a sloppy start against a squad it swept in the regular season, surrendering four runs in the first two innings with three errors. After a solo home run to left by Justin Mackert gave the Bulldogs a 6-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth, the Cougars began to rally, loading the bases in the bottom of the inning.
Pinch-hitter Tyler Jackson hit a base-clearing double to make it a one-run game before center fielder Marty Gantt tied it at 6-6 with a double to bring Jackson home. The rally ultimately fell short, as Clarkson held the Cougars scoreless before Griffin’s third RBI gave The Citadel the lead for the last time.
“It’s basically do or die tomorrow,” Lee said. “I don’t think there’s anything I really need to say, as far as motivation goes. Tomorrow means everything right now.”
Post and Courier
May 24, 2012
Ryan Freeberg, who had been an assistant coach for the past four years at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, was named to the College of Charleston men’s basketball staff. Freeberg joins Amir Abdur-Rahim and Andrew Wilson on new coach Doug Wojcik’s coaching staff.
Prior to Hutchinson, Freeberg worked at NCAA Division II Concordia (Minn.) University, and also coached at The Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C.
Anthony Thomas, a 6-7 guard-forward from Winston-Salem, N.C., played at Hutchinson last season and is one of two Cougars signees for next season. The College of Charleston also signed 6-6 freshman Theo Johnson out of Elk Grove, Calif.
Dupree hired as assistant at Canisius
Fred Dupree, who spent six seasons as an assistant on former College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins’ staff, was named to the coaching staff at Canisius. Duree is a 1998 Canisius graduate. He joins Pat Clarke and Mike Mennenga as assistants to new Canisius coach Jim Baron.
Post and Courier
May 23, 2012
When they clinched a share of the Southern Conference regular season title on Saturday, College of Charleston baseball players were packing away their gear in the dugout at UNC Greensboro.
As word came down that Appalachian State had lost, thus dropping into a first-place tie with Charleston, Cougar players exchanged high-fives and a few happy shouts.
It was satisfying, but not as fun as a full-on dogpile on the pitcher’s mound.
“You could feel the excitement in the air when we found that out,” said Cougars senior Marty Gantt. “But at the same time, if we had played a little better, we could have been outright champions by ourselves.
“That just makes you want to play that much harder going into the conference tournament to show everybody we did deserve to share the title.”
As they open the Southern Conference tournament against The Citadel at 10 a.m. today at Greenville’s Fluor Field, the Cougars say they have some work to do before they can look ahead to the NCAA tournament.
At 37-18 overall and 21-9 in the SoCon, College of Charleston is on the NCAA bubble with an RPI rating of No. 40. The latest projection at perfectgame.org has the Cougars among the last five teams in the field of 64.
Despite what has been a solid season for the SoCon, which ranks seventh in conference RPI and has four teams in the top 58, Cougars coach Monte Lee doesn’t want to give the selection committee any reason to snub his team.
“If the field was selected today, I think we’d get in,” said Lee, whose team owns marquee wins over Clemson, South Carolina and Coastal Carolina. “But it’s not selected today. I think we need to play well in the tournament.”
The Cougars have had some close calls in recent years, winning 39 games in 2011, 2008 and 2007 and getting left out of the NCAA field each time. In 2007, College of Charleston entered the SoCon tournament with 39 wins and an RPI of No. 37, but went 0-2 and was left out.
In 2010, when three SoCon teams made the field of 64, the Cougars entered the tournament with 41 wins and an RPI of No. 24 and earned an at-large bid despite going 1-2 in the SoCon tourney.
“I think we’ve got to win at least two games in the tournament, preferably the first two,” said Gantt, the center fielder who swept the SoCon’s player of the year awards from league coaches and media. “I think that would give us a good chance at an at-large bid, but I don’t think we’re a lock yet.”
The Cougars’ immediate obstacle is rival The Citadel, the No. 7 seed in the tournament. Charleston swept the Bulldogs by scores of 8-4, 7-2 and 6-5 during the season. Senior Christian Powell (9-3, 2.32 ERA), named SoCon pitcher of the year by league coaches, will get the start against Citadel ace Austin Pritcher (6-5, 3.21 ERA).
“It gives our guys a lot of confidence knowing that we swept them during the season,” Gantt said. “I think we’ll be feeling pretty good going into the game.”
The winner of the Cougars-Bulldogs game will play the winner between No. 3 Elon and No. 6 Georgia Southern on Thursday.
May 22, 2012
Cheyenne Mountain student-athletes swept the long-running Fred Steinmark High School Athlete of the Year awards in their 41st year, as picked by the Colorado High School Coaches Association.
Janae Vander Ploeg captured the girls award and Canyon Barry won the boys.
For the award, two sports must be played during an athlete’s high school career, in which the athlete must have been selected all-state in one sport and at least all-league in another. The student must carry at least a 3.0 grade-point average. Being active in school and community activities carries a lot of weight with voting coaches.
“I can’t think right now,” Vander Ploeg told award personnel. “This is such a huge honor. Just to be in the running has meant so much to me. Fred Steinmark was such a excellent athlete and student and to win. I just feel so humbled.”
Vander Ploeg has excelled in volleyball, basketball and soccer lettering in all three, all four years. And, among the trio, her career in volleyball has been nothing short of superb, earning All-American honors as a junior and senior. Vander Ploeg, who will enter Northern Arizona in the fall, helped lead Cheyenne Mountain to four Class 4A state volleyball championships.
She has been a member of the academic honor roll throughout her career with a weighted 3.84 grade-point-average and graduates cum laude. She has served on Cheyenne Mountain’s Student Council, has been involved in Colorado Springs Care and Share Food Drives, a member of Younglife Christian Youth Group, Eco Defense-recycle for schools and has been coaching in camps for elementary students in all her athletic endeavors.
“Wow. I’m so stoked right now,” was Barry’s reaction. “This is such a fine honor. You never know about winning such a prestigious award with so many great athletes out there.”
He is a state champion in tennis as well as being No. 1 in his class of 322 students academically. Barry qualified for the state tennis tournament in doubles all four years of his high school career, chalking up state titles in 2010 and 2011.
He also earned honors in basketball and as a triple jumper, earning first team academic all-state honors in all three sports. He is headed to the College of Charleston. The 6-foot-5 son of NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry also participates in badminton and volleyball.
He has played first chair euphonium in the Concert Band and Wind Ensemble. Barry has also been active in Boy Scouts earning his Eagle Scout Award. He teaches tennis and basketball lessons and clinics.
Steinmark played football, basketball and baseball at Wheat Ridge and earned several state honors. He led the Farmers to the Class 3A state football title in 1967, then went on to play for Texas. He was a starting defensive back for the Longhorns for two years and helped them win the national championship in 1969 and go 20-1-1.
He was an outstanding student with a 3.8 grade-point-average, was active in several school clubs, student government, his church and community. He was stricken with cancer and died at age 22.