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Courtesy: Alice Keeney
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Cougars Prepare For Rivalry Series At The Citadel
Release: 05/09/2013
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CHARLESTON, S.C. – College of Charleston (26-22, 14-9) travels downtown this weekend for a big rivalry series against The Citadel (28-21, 15-9). Both teams are fighting for positioning in the Southern Conference Tournament with just a half-game separating The Citadel, College of Charleston and Elon for second place. First-place Western Carolina is around three games ahead.

Friday’s game is scheduled for 4 p.m., while Saturday will start at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Cougars will be looking to bounce back from a difficult week at home with losses coming to No. 30 Campbell and SEC foe Georgia. Although the pitching staffs kept the strong opponents within striking range, CofC managed just five total runs in the two games to lose 6-2 and 5-3.

Gunnar Heidt continued his strong sophomore campaign with four hits in the week, raising his average to .361. A number of firsts saw Bradley Goodson knock his first HR of the season, Nathan Helvey made his first start in a month and redshirt-junior Derrick Smith returned to make his first relief appearance of the season.

“We need to turn it around,” head coach Monte Lee said. “We have to stay positive and upbeat. This team has played well over the course of the year in spurts, but in order to go into The Citadel, which has a great club, we’re going to have to do a lot of things right. However, I like our chances with the starting pitching that we have. We have to pitch well out of the bullpen and swing the bats. They have a great club, so it’s going to be a tough challenge.”

Friday night’s matchup will feature the league’s best two starting pitchers in terms of ERA in Austin Pritcher (2.56) and Jake Zokan (2.57).

Although CofC has lost its last two games, that bodes well for a rebound this weekend. The Cougars have not been streaky with the longest winning streak and losing streaks of the year just at three games.

Saturday and Sunday’s games have the potential for time changes due to weather. The Charleston RiverDogs will be playing doubleheaders with each game this weekend. CofC has had doubleheader action due to weather each of the past three weekends.

Friday RHP #5 Austin Pritcher Citadel 6-2, 2.56 ERA, 77.1 IP, 29 BB, 64 K
LHP #30 Jake Zokan CofC 3-1, 2.57 ERA, 63.0 IP, 13 BB, 64 K

Saturday LHP #7 Logan Cribb Citadel 3-3, 3.54 ERA, 56.0 IP, 18 BB, 52 K
RHP #29 Ryan West CofC 4-1, 4.28 ERA, 54.2 IP, 18 BB, 63 K

Sunday RHP #27 Austin Mason Citadel 3-3, 6.40 ERA, 52.0 IP, 15 BB, 34 K
RHP #22 Matt Pegler CofC 3-2, 3.55 ERA, 78.2 IP, 11 BB, 66 K

The weekend’s games will be carried for free online on the Charleston Sports Network at with Will Bryan providing the play-by-play. Away from the computer, fans can listen to The Citadel’s Danny Reed on 1450 AM for the Bulldog Radio Network.

Since reinstatement in 1991, College of Charleston trails the all-time series by just one game, 37-38, to The Citadel. However, the Bulldogs hold an 18-10 advantage when playing CofC at The Joe in the regular season. Under head coach Monte Lee, CofC is 9-7 against the Bulldogs and 2-5 when playing on the Ashley River. CofC won an 11-7 contest over the Bulldogs in non-conference play earlier this season.

The Citadel had their 10-game winning streak snapped on April 27 at Furman. Since that 14-10 loss, the Bulldogs are 1-3 with a loss at North Carolina and a home series loss to Davidson that set Citadel’s RPI back to 80.

The Citadel ranks second in the SoCon in hitting (.305) and third in the league in pitching (4.38). Bo Thompson leads the SoCon in on-base percentage (.491) and walks (47) and is second in home runs (12). Austin Pritcher has the league’s best ERA (2.56) and opposing batting average (.229).

College of Charleston surprised many with its dominating pitching staff which led the SoCon in multiple categories in 2012. With five pitchers of that staff departed, including four to the minor leagues, some expected 2013 to be a rebuilding year for CofC pitching. However, this season the Cougars are first in the conference with a staff ERA of 4.09. They are first in opposing batting average (.264), first in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.62) and first in walks allowed (144).

Despite injuries and other factors affecting the Cougars’ weekend rotation, starters Matt Pegler, Jake Zokan, Nathan Helvey and Ryan West have led yet another strong pitching campaign for the Cougars. The foursome have combined for 21 quality starts (Pegler 6, Zokan 6, Helvey 5, West 4) with a combined starter ERA of 3.05 with 191 strikeouts against just 40 walks for K-to-BB ratio of 4.78. They have now made quality starts in seven of the last eight weekend games with a combined ERA of 1.84 in that stretch.

Zokan is currently second in the SoCon with a 2.61 ERA, and he is second in the league in strikeouts looking (28).

Ryan West has only allowed 11 earned runs in his six starts this season, which have come in the last month. In his last five starts, four have been quality and he has averaged 8.2 strikeouts per start.

Matt Pegler won SoCon Pitcher of the Week honors (5/6) after he had a career-high 10 strikeouts in a shutout of Wofford. He allowed just two singles in seven innings of work with just one walk.

All season, head coach Monte Lee has preached the importance of aggressive hitting, strike-throwing and strong defense. The Cougars have been living up to the bill on defense over the past month. CofC currently ranks second in the SoCon with a fielding percentage of .966.

Despite being near the bottom of last year’s lineup in offensive statistics, sophomore SS Gunnar Heidt now has a team-high .361 batting average (5th in SoCon) with 46 runs scored (4th) and a SoCon-high six triples, which currently ties him for seventh nationally. He has a .557 slugging percentage with 49 RBIs. He was named the SoCon Player of the Month for March.

Brandon Murray was named the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week after he set a new school record with nine RBI in a single game at Davidson (4/14). He hit a grand slam, a three-run HR and a two-run double in the game. The nine RBI was the third-most by an NCAA player in a single game in 2013. Murray is third in the SoCon with 37 walks, and now ranks fourth in the league with 49 RBI.

Against SoCon-only competition, Murray ranks first in batting average (.432), second in slugging (.784), second in on-base percentage (.543) and third in RBI (29).

Cody Martin has become the “Lone Ranger” of the Cougar offense as the only senior in the everyday batting lineup. Martin has battled injury this season, but he has been very effective since returning vs. Davidson. He has a .302 average and .554 slugging percentage in the last 13 games. He set a new career high with four hits and three RBI vs. Coastal Carolina, and hit second in the lineup vs. Georgia this week.

...put Carl Wise into the starting lineup. Since becoming an everyday starter vs. UNCG, true freshman Wise has hit .343 with 12 RBI and a .552 slugging percentage. He now ranks fifth in the SoCon with a .451 on-base percentage. In those 19 games, Wise has seven extra-base hits and has reached base safely in all but three contests.

True freshman Blake Butler has been an important infield cog this season, starting every game at second since the second weekend of the season. He is hitting .301 with a .411 on-base percentage and hits .460 when leading off an inning. His defense has been strong too as he has just four errors in 104 chances.

Redshirt-freshman Morgan Phillips played well defensively in center field and been a power producer at the plate. Although Phillips has struggled with strikeouts, he has a .394 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and is currently slugging .476 with a team-high 13 doubles.

College of Charleston has played 23 games that have either been decided or one-run games in the seventh inning or later. The Cougars are 10-13 in these close games so far this season. The Cougars went to extra innings three times in two weeks, defeating UNCG but falling to Coastal Carolina and Davidson in extras. Charleston is 3-7 in one-run games and 2-3 in extra-inning games this season. Cougar relief pitchers have accounted for 24 decisions this year, going 12-12 as a bullpen.

The 2013 has not necessarily shown the measure of success that Charleston baseball has had in the last decade. The Cougars longest winning streak is only three games with just a single series sweep this season. However, CofC has climbed back in the SoCon standings and are just a half-game out of second place.

Since 2004, Charleston has only finished below third place once in the SoCon standings. The Cougars won the regular season in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2012.

Last season, College of Charleston was a remarkable 31-3 when leading after the fourth inning and 3-17 when trailing after the fourth. Despite a number of close games, that trend has continued in 2013. The Cougars are 22-5 when holding a lead after the fourth, and 2-15 when trailing after the fourth inning.

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