Post and Courier
June 4, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Marty Gantt stood helplessly in center field, staring up into a high blue sky with his arms extended in the universal baseball sign for “Help!”
The fly ball with two on and two out in the sixth inning fell to the grass some 30 feet to the right of the College of Charleston standout, giving Georgia Tech the only run it would need in a 3-0 victory Sunday in the NCAA regionals at Florida’s McKethan Stadium.
Yellow Jackets catcher Connor Lynch — under orders to bunt, then to hit and run, then to hit to right field — hooked a two-strike pitch to left field for a two-run home run in the ninth, slapping a disappointing end on an otherwise successful Cougars’ season.
Cougars coach Monte Lee’s team (38-22) won a share of the Southern Conference regular-season title and earned its fifth NCAA bid, its second in three years. But the Cougars went 1-4 in the postseason, going 0-2 in the SoCon tournament and 1-2 in the regional, their only win over Bethune-Cookman.
“We did some things this year that we haven’t done in a while,” Lee said, recalling wins over Columbia regionalists Clemson, South Carolina and Coastal Carolina. “But the postseason was frustrating. We didn’t throw the ball well or play well defensively at the SoCon tournament.
“But this weekend, I felt like we did pitch and play well, at least for two games. It’s frustrating for me, only because I would have liked for our seniors to play a little bit deeper. Any time you get in the NCAA field of 64 at College of Charleston, you have to feel like it was a successful season.”
Pitcher Josh Renfro, one of six Cougar seniors, said there were “no regrets.”
“It was tough, but we left it all on the line,” he said. “We battled hard, put together a couple of good performances, and came up short.”
Renfro gave No. 3 seed Charleston every chance to beat No. 2 Georgia Tech (38-26), which lost 15-3 to No. 1 Florida in the regional final later Sunday. He allowed only one run — on that ill-fated fly ball — and six hits over 71/3 innings against a team that belted two three-run homers against Charleston on Friday.
“Same plan as always,” said Renfro (6-8). “Locate, work ahead and made quality pitches. Against a good-hitting team like that, you have to stay within yourself.”
But against Tech bullpen ace Alex Cruz, making his first college start, and reliever Zane Evans, the Cougars managed only three hits. They had 12 runs and 24 hits in the first two regional games, an 8-4 loss to Georgia Tech and 8-2 win over Bethune-Cookman.
“He did what he’s done all year,” Lee said of Cruz, who is 8-3 and entered the game with a 2.00 ERA. “We knew he’d throw strikes and make you hit the ball on the ground, and they made all the plays behind him.”
The Cougars made plays, too, snuffing out a fourth-inning rally with a 6-4-3 double play. But with two on and two out in the sixth, Gantt could not find a fly ball by Evans and left fielder Brandon Murray could not reach it in left-center, the ball dropping for an RBI double.
Charleston got runners to first and second with one out in the sixth, but Rob Harding bounced into a 4-6-3 double play. Evans allowed just one hit over the final three innings for his seventh save.
Lynch hit his first homer in the ninth to make it 3-0.
After getting spiked in the left hand Saturday against Bethune-Cookman, Gantt struck out three times. In Sunday’s game, he collided with Murray in the first inning and cramped up in his lower leg. He ended up going 0 for 3 after getting four hits (including a double and a home run) and scoring four times in the first two games.
“I don’t know if he wasn’t himself (because of the injuries),” Lee said. “He wasn’t himself today because he didn’t get any hits. He just had a tough day, and everybody else did, too.”
The Cougars lose seniors Gantt and Harding in the field, and Renfro, David Peterson, Kyle Owings and Nick Osterman from the pitching staff. Pitcher Christian Powell is a likely draft choice, and pitcher/outfielder Dre Watts and outfielder Daniel Aldrich are possible draft picks, Lee said.
June 4, 2012
With the moment that could decide the future of former Greenwood
High School baseball pitcher Christian Powell rapidly approaching, he said it
was not something really sitting at the forefront of his mind.
Before that moment, he had something else to do.
The Major League Baseball first-year player draft begins today, and the current College of Charleston star and former Eagle is expected to be selected on the draft's second day. But during the weekend, his focus was on playing in the NCAA regional with the Cougars. They bowed out Sunday against Georgia Tech.
Even with the a good deal of attention coming from Major League
Baseball teams, he's managed to compartmentalize that aspect of the end of his
"I've had a call from pretty much every team, but I try not
to think about that because that's something I really can't control,"
Powell said in a phone interview Thursday. "I've just got to go out there
and pitch well and they're going to decide on what they're going to do with me.
I have no say-so on all that."
Powell was an impact player from his freshman season on at Greenwood. He was named all-state twice, all-region four times and ended his prep career with two Lakelands Baseball Player of the Year titles.
Post and Courier
June 3, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the ninth inning of his no-hitter against Bethune-Cookman on Friday night, Florida pitcher Jonathon Crawford hit 98 mph on the radar gun.
Not blessed with that sort of blazer, College of Charleston's Matt Pegler worked his own magic against the Wildcats on Saturday.
Pegler held Bethune- Cookman hitless through five innings and struck out a career-high nine batters, leading the Cougars to an 8-2 win and to another day in the NCAA baseball regionals at McKethan Stadium.
Charleston (38-21), which got a home run and two RBIs from Daniel Aldrich, will play at noon today against Georgia Tech, which lost 6-2 to Florida on Saturday. If the Cougars win that game, they will play again at 6 p.m. today.
Before Saturday, the Cougars had allowed 17 runs in the first two innings of three straight postseason losses. The team was 6-0 when Pegler pitches the day after a loss, and had to have another skid-snapper Saturday.
The junior right-hander from Greenville came through in fine style, his first complete game saving an already taxed bullpen. Pegler gave up only two hits — one a 2-run homer by Josh Johnson in the sixth — and walked none.
“Against Florida, it was a matter of pure stuff,” said Wildcats coach Jason Beverlin, whose team was eliminated with a 34-27 record. “That guy was overpowering, throwing 90 to 98. Today, (Pegler) kept us off-balance, threw nothing straight, kept the ball down. To hit a guy like that, you have to give up the inside path and go the other way, and our guys weren't willing to do that.”
Pegler, wary of the Wildcats after they were no-hit, didn't allow a hit until Carlos Delgado bounced a grounder off of second base in the sixth.
“I was worried they were saving up all their hits for today,” Pegler said. “I don't have a 98 mph fastball. I have to have some movement, throw cut fastballs and run the ball in and out, and try to get away with it.”
He did, and now Cougars coach Monte Lee will choose either senior lefty Josh Renfro or junior right-hander Ryan West to start today's game. Thanks to Pegler, the entire bullpen is available.
“When you have to go to the bullpen as early as we did in game one, you hope in game two your pitcher gives you a quality start,” Lee said. “Matt did what he does — threw strikes, changed speeds. If you are not extremely disciplined as a hitter, he can make it tough for you.”
The Cougars led 3-0 after four and broke the game open with five runs on six hits in the fifth, including RBI singles by Brandon Murray, Rob Harding, Aldrich (who was 3 for 3) and Brandon Glazer. Charleston has 24 hits and 12 runs in two regional games.
More offense like that and another good pitching performance, and things could get interesting.
“We know our season is on the line,” said Aldrich, who has 11 homers. “We know what's at stake. We just have to relax and play our best brand of baseball.”
Post and Courier
June 3, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Rob Harding was a bit surprised when he looked at College of Charleston’s lineup card Saturday.
For the first time all season, the senior third baseman found himself hitting third in the lineup. And that wasn’t the only change. Left fielder Brandon Murray went from his usual spot in the three-hole to second, with shortstop Bradley Goodson dropping from second to sixth.
Coach Monte Lee’s adjustments might have helped and certainly didn’t hurt, as the Cougars collected 11 hits in an 8-2 win over Bethune-Cookman in the NCAA baseball regionals.
Lee said he wanted to separate left-handed hitters Murray and Daniel Aldrich, and get Harding into the three-hole behind the hot-hitting duo of Marty Gantt and Murray.
“It was OK,” Lee said. “I just wanted to break up the lefties in the middle of the order. And Rob can handle the bat very well. He can bunt and we can hit and run with him. If we get the first two guys on with no one out, we’ve got some options with Rob in that spot.”
Harding was 1 of 4 and drove in a run, and the top five hitters in the lineup went 8 for 17 with five RBIs. Aldrich hit his 11th homer, a towering shot over the scoreboard in right field, and was 3 for 3 with two RBIs.
Senior Marty Gantt injured his hand while stealing third base in the first inning, and also struck out three times.
Lee said the two issues weren’t related, and that Gantt’s injury does not look serious. He said Gantt’s left hand was stepped on during the play at third.
“I don’t think it will need stitches or anything,” he said. “You’d have to cut off his hand to keep him out. I think he just swung and missed. It happens.”
Still, Gantt was 2 for 5 with a double and scored twice.
Bethune-Cookman coach Jason Beverlin is a 1994 graduate of Western Carolina, where he was an All-American pitcher. His staff includes ex-Catamounts Barrett Shaft and Kenny Smith.
Beverlin pitched in MLB with Detroit and Oakland and also has worked at Tennessee and Georgia Southern. He inherited a program that had made the NCAAs six years in a row, and extended the streak to seven.
But he was disappointed that the Wildcats could muster only two hits in two regional games.
“With as many strides as we made as a team this season, it was disappointing,” said Beverlin, whose team won the MEAC with an 18-5 record. “I thought we’d come out with more fight and energy. To see what I saw today was very disappointing.”
Post and Courier
June 2, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Georgia Tech hit about 700 feet worth of home runs Friday in an 8-4 win over College of Charleston on Friday in the NCAA baseball regionals.
But it was a ball that traveled all of five feet that might have hurt the Cougars the most.
With the score tied and two out in the second inning, catcher Jimmy Holton could not handle a tough-chance high-bouncer right in front of the plate, his throw to first too late to nip Kyle Wren at first base for the third out.
A bloop single and three-run home run by Brandon Thomas later, the No. 3 seed Cougars trailed by 7-3 and were on their way to the losers’ bracket. They will face the No. 4 Bethune-Cookman, which lost 4-0 to Florida as sophomore Jonathon Crawford threw a complete -game no-hitter, at 1 p.m. today.
“Had we made that play, it could have been a much different ball game,” said Cougars coach Monte Lee, whose team has lost three straight to fall to 37-21. “But you have to give Georgia Tech credit, they capitalized and scored four runs after that. It was a tough play, and Jimmy’s a good defensive catcher, but he could not come up with that one.”
No. 2 seed Georgia Tech (37-24), which has won six straight games, made good on coach Danny Hall’s decision to hold back ace pitcher Buck Farmer for a potential matchup with No. 1 Florida. But the move worked only because Jake Davies added a three-run homer in the first to Thomas’ shot, and reliever Dusty Isaacs (6-4) bailed out freshman starter Cole Pitts with 51/3 innings of scoreless relief.
The Cougars tagged Pitts for 10 hits and four runs in 32/3 innings, including a two-run homer by Marty Gantt in the second that tied the score at 3-3.
“Cole really didn’t have it today,” Hall said. “But Dusty came in and got us out of a jam and put all zeroes up there.”
Just as they did while going 0-2 in the SoCon Tournament, the Cougars fell behind early. Charleston has given up a total of 17 runs in the first two innings of the last three games — seven against Georgia Tech, six in a loss to Elon and four in a loss to The Citadel.
“I don’t know if I can ask our offense to do much differently,” Lee said. “The big thing is, we’ve got to pitch better early in the game. That’s been our Achilles heel lately. One big inning from the other team can make it difficult, especially against regional-caliber clubs.”
Charleston starter Christian Powell (9-4) was hitting 94 mph on the radar guns wielded by scouts, and was that one play away from getting out of the second inning at 3-3. But he ended up allowing seven hits and eight runs (four earned) in just 31/3 innings. Both homers came on first-pitch fastballs.
“His location was not where it needed to be,” Lee said. “Davies is one of the hottest pitchers in the country, and we tried not to give him anything over the plate. We missed.”
Now, the Cougars have to win today and hope for another chance to knock off a major power on Sunday.
“We don’t feel overmatched,” said Gantt, who was 2 of 4 with two RBIs. “We know we can play with any team in the country, as long as we play great defense, pitch well and hit well.”
College Baseball Insider
June 1, 2012
Growing up, Marty Gantt wanted to be like everyone else.
But Gantt, now a senior centerfielder at College of Charleston, always has had a knack for sticking out.
These days, Gantt is the sparkplug for the Cougars, who tied Appalachian State for the regular-season title in the Southern Conference and snagged one of the final at-large bids to the NCAA tournament. With a .375 average, 10 homers, 44 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .612 slugging percentage, he’s gotten every little thing out of his 5-9 frame to the tune of being named the Southern Conference Player of the Year, a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award and a third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger.
“As a player, he’s a special player; he is the heart and soul of this ball club,” College of Charleston coach Monte Lee said. “He’s also one of the most hard-nosed players I’ve ever coached. He’s one of those guys you coach once in a lifetime.”
What makes Gantt’s storybook year even more amazing is the reason he wanted to be like every other kid. Gantt was born with an underdeveloped right hand – while in the womb, the umbilical cord wrapped around his fingertips stunting growth. His fingers end where most people’s fingers bend at the knuckles.
“I don’t look at it as a disability, and I don’t think anyone should,” Gantt said this week from Gainesville, Fla., where third-seeded College of Charleston will battle with No. 1 Florida, second-seeded Georgia Tech and fourth-seeded Bethune-Cookman.
But as a kid, plenty of other kids did see his hand as a disability. And kids can be awfully cruel. They teased and picked on Gantt.
“That can kind of get to you as a little kid and break you down,” Gantt said. “That’s always a hard thing. When you’re a little kid, you want to be like everyone else. People picked on me because I didn’t have a normal hand.”
Gantt remembers his mother telling him not to let his hand stand in the way. He remembers her encouragement, telling him he could do anything. Gantt was “about 5 or 6” at the time.
“She made me who I am today,” Gantt said of his mother Theresa.
Gantt played baseball, basketball and football growing up. Football was always fun, he said, because, you got to hit people. By the age of 12, though, he realized he was going to be a pretty good baseball player.
From North Augusta, S.C., he began playing travel ball when he was 16 for the South Carolina Diamond Devils, who were based in Charleston. And he became a superstar at North Augusta High School. He batted .486 and went 9-3 with a 1.33 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 84 innings as a junior in 2007, becoming what Lee believes to be the only junior in South Carolina history to be named Mr. Baseball. As a senior his ERA was 1.44 and he was one pitch – a hit batter in the second inning of a game against Aiken – from a perfect game and had to settle for a no-hitter.
He originally signed with South Carolina but attended Spartanburg Methodist for two years, where he was named all-region both years and a member of the NJCAA All-Star team in 2010. He joined the Cougars last year, hitting .329 with seven homers, 44 RBI and 55 walks in 61 starts as the leadoff man. The lefty also made five appearances on the mound, picking up a save.
“The handicap that he was born with makes it even more impressive,” Lee said. “The fact that the guy can play at the level he plays at with a hand not fully developed is incredible.”
Gantt, who admits he misses pitching because of being in control and setting the tempo of the game, started the season in the 3-hole. As one of only a few returners in a revamped Cougars lineup, Lee needed Gantt to drive in runs. A little past the midway point, Lee put Gantt back in the leadoff spot.
“I think he’s as complete a player as we have had in our league in a long time,” Elon coach Mike Kennedy said. “He competes every at-bat, never gives away an at-bat. He has gap-to-gap power and is just a tough out.
“Maybe his best attribute is that he plays hard and never takes a play of. We were aware of his hand and I think what he’s done is incredible. He certainly didn’t let any physical limitations affect his play.”
Because of his hand – the top hand in his right-handed swing – Gantt typically lets go of the bat at the point of contact and extends through the zone with one hand. Lee said that about the only thing he can’t do is check his swing.
As his college days wind down, Gantt again is looking for acceptance. He wants to finish strong with the Cougars, and he wants a Major League team to give him a shot.
“Even though I don’t have a full hand, I want to prove to people that I can play baseball at a high level,” Gantt said.
Gantt has proven it time and time again. And he’s proven it time and time again that – as hard as he tries – he’s not like everyone else. He’s better.
Post and Courier
June 1, 2012
GAINESVILLE, FLA. — A Baseball America preview of the Gainesville regional describes No. 2 seed Georgia Tech as “loose, confident and dangerous.”
As Rob Harding sees it, that description could also apply to No. 3 College of Charleston, which takes on the Yellow Jackets at 1 p.m. today at Florida’s McKethan Stadium.
“There ain’t a soul in this country that will have us going down there and winning this regional,” said the Cougars’ senior second baseman. “So what do we have to lose?”
Harding admits the Cougars (37-20) were a little tight heading into the Southern Conference tournament last week in Greenville, where an 0-2 flameout put Charleston on the NCAA tournament bubble.
“That was the big thing, that we put too much pressure on ourselves,” Harding said. “Some people thought we should win it, some people didn’t.”
Conventional wisdom had it that the Cougars needed to win a game or two in the SoCon tourney to assure an NCAA bid, but Charleston’s share of the regular season title and RPI-boosting wins over regional qualifiers South Carolina, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State and Samford proved to be enough.
“It would have been heartbreaking to finish our careers the way we played in the SoCon tournament,” said senior center fielder Marty Gantt, named a third-team All-American by Louisville Slugger on Thursday. “I really think that’s already behind us. We’ve been given another shot. The key is to pitch well and play good defense, because I think we’ll swing the bats.”
College of Charleston scored 18 runs in SoCon tourney losses to The Citadel and Elon, but committed seven errors while giving up 22 runs. Neither starting pitcher (Christian Powell and Josh Renfro) went past five innings.
“We have to pitch the way we have all year and play solid defense,” coach Monte Lee said. “We just have to make the routine play. We don’t have a lot of power pitchers. We have guys who throw strikes and pitch to contact, and you have to play defense behind those guys.”
Georgia Tech (36-24), which won the ACC tournament as the eighth seed, will hold back ace pitcher Buck Farmer for a potential matchup with No. 1 seed Florida on Saturday. The Jackets will go with freshman right-hander Cole Pitts (6-4, 4.36 ERA) against the Cougars’ Powell (9-3, 2.39 ERA), the SoCon pitcher of the year.
That bit of risk-taking will be noted in the Cougars’ clubhouse, but Lee is stressing to his players that it doesn’t really matter who the pitcher is, as long as Charleston takes care of its own business.
In his last four starts, Pitts is 2-0 with a 2.97 ERA.
“We’re counting on him to pitch well in this game against College of Charleston and then we’ll proceed from there,” Hall said.
The winner of today’s game will face the Florida/Bethune-Cookman winner at 7 p.m. Saturday, with the losers squaring off at 1 p.m. Saturday.
June 1, 2012
College of Charleston junior Tyler Jackson called it one of the best moments of his life and something he'll never forget.
Huddled around a television in the Cougars' locker and media room, the baseball team began to watch the NCAA tournament selection show on Monday. The first segment showed a list of potential bubble teams who may or may not make the 64-team field.
Post and Courier
May 31, 2012
Monte Lee was hired as College of Charleston’s baseball coach on July 3, 2008.
By the Fourth of July, it’s safe to say, Lee had put in a call to a high school pitcher in Greenwood named Christian Powell.
“He was one of the main targets, if not the main target, in our first recruiting class,” Lee said this week. “We really recruited Christian hard, and he’s really been the key to all of it for us in the last three years.”
A regular season Southern Conference title this season, two NCAA tournament appearances in three years — it might have happened without the efforts of the 6-4, 219-pounder, but Lee’s glad he didn’t have to find out.
“He’s pitched on the weekend ever since he’s been here, and he’s really matured a lot mentally and physically,” said Lee, who will start Powell against Georgia Tech on Friday in the NCAA regional in Gainesville, Fla.
Lee was an assistant coach at South Carolina when Powell popped up on his recruiting radar, a big, strong right-hander from Greenwood High School who was drafted in the 47th round of the MLB draft by Cleveland in 2009.
When Powell made his recruiting visit to Charleston (and the beach), the deal was all but done. Lake Greenwood was never like this.
“I had never really been anywhere before,” Powell said with a grin. “So when I got here and saw the beaches and the atmosphere, I loved it.”
Lee immediately inserted Powell into the Cougars’ weekend rotation, and he’s been a steadily improving workhorse ever since: 7-4 with a 6.84 earned-run average as a freshman, 8-1 with a 3.09 ERA last year, and 9-3 with a league-best ERA of 2.39 this season, good enough to earn SoCon pitcher of the year honors.
For his career, that adds up to a 24-8 record and 251 innings pitched, ranking second and fifth in school history, respectively. And Powell has eaten more than innings during his career.
“He’s probably put on about 40 pounds since he’s been here,” Lee said.
All of it adds up to a pitcher who draws radar guns whenever he throws, a fastball reaching the low 90s. Baseball America ranks Powell No. 195 on its list of prospects for the draft next month.
Before that is the small matter of Friday’s regional opener against Georgia Tech (36-24), the ACC tournament champion and one of the hottest teams in the NCAA tournament.
Jackets coach Danny Hall pulled a surprise move Wednesday, announcing that he would hold back ace pitcher Buck Farmer (8-3, 3.43 ERA) and start freshman right- hander Cole Pitts (6-4, 4.36 ERA) against the Cougars.
It’s a gamble, as Hall is betting that Georgia Tech can get by the Cougars with Pitts, who was drafted in the 32nd round by Cleveland last year, and save Farmer for a potential matchup with No. 1 national seed Florida on Saturday.
Powell, meanwhile, wants to improve on his most recent performances. He has not pitched past the fifth inning in his last three starts. He allowed eight hits and five runs in five innings of an 8-6 loss to The Citadel in the SoCon tournament, but was undone by a defense that committed four errors.
“I hope I can turn it around here in the regional,” he said.
Lee is sure that he can.
“He’s accustomed to having not just quality outings, but being pretty dominant over six, seven or eight innings,” he said. “We’re completely confident he can do that this weekend.”
Post and Courier
May 31, 2012
College of Charleston has won the Southern Conference all-sports trophy for women’s sports, the league announced Wednesday.
The Cougars won the Germann Cup for the third time in eight years, taking the SoCon women’s tennis title and the South Division volleyball championship, and finishing third or better in golf, soccer and softball in 2011-12. College of Charleston finished with 81.5 points, just ahead of Samford (80.5).
Appalachian State won the SoCon men’s overall title, the Commissioner’s Cup, with 94 points, claiming regular season titles in baseball, wrestling and outdoor track and field.
1. App State 94; 2. Samford 66.5; 3. Furman 65; 4. Davidson 64.5; 5. UNCG 60; 6. Chattanooga 59.5; 7. Wofford 53; 8. Elon 52; 9. College of Charleston 51.5; 10. Georgia Southern 51; 11. Western Carolina 50.5; 12. The Citadel 45.5.
1. College of Charleston 81.5; 2. Samford 80.5; 3. App State 78.5; 4. UNCG 72.5; 5. Furman 68; 6. Elon 65; 7. Western Carolina 62.5; 8. Georgia Southern 56; 9. Chattanooga 52.5; 10. Davidson 36.5; 11. Wofford 24.5; 12. The Citadel 13.
Post and Courier
May 30, 2012
Legend has it that baseball began in the Bahamas in the 1940s when American sailors, docked in the port at Nassau, went ashore with their bats and gloves. Cricket star Andre Rogers became the first major league player from the island nation in 1957, making his big-league debut just five years after he first saw a baseball.
Rogers’ career — he succeeded Ernie Banks at shortstop for the Cubs — fueled a baseball boom in the Bahamas, which is located off the coast of Florida and north of Cuba. Six Bahamians have played in the majors, and during the 1960s and 70s, baseball was arguably the most popular sport on the island.
“Baseball used to be big in the Bahamas,” said College of Charleston sophomore Brandon Murray, who grew up in Nassau. “Then it sort of declined, but we’re trying to bring it back to where we can compete with other Caribbean nations.”
If the Bahamas keeps producing players like Murray, a 5-10, 200-pound outfielder, it might soon be competitive with baseball-mad countries like Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Murray is the hottest hitter on College of Charleston’s roster heading into the third-seeded Cougars’ date with No. 2 Georgia Tech on Friday in the NCAA regionals in Gainesville, Fla.
The left-handed hitter is batting a cool .528 (19 of 36) over the last eight games, with 11 RBIs, four doubles, one triple and one home run in that span. In the space of three weeks, Murray raised his batting average from .276 to .324 to go with 12 homers and 39 RBIs, earning second-team All-Southern Conference honors.
“He’s come so far from the beginning of the season,” said Cougars senior Rob Harding.
Murray has come a long way, in general. The product of a prominent Bahamian baseball family — his grandfather was one of the island’s best-known pitchers, and his father Bertram played at Kentucky State and works with the Bahamas Baseball Federation — Brandon left home at age 14 to move to Florida, seeking education and baseball opportunities.
On the advice of a family friend, he enrolled at Trinity Christian School in Lake Worth, Fla. There, he played baseball and soccer, was valedictorian of his senior class and was discovered — by accident — by College of Charleston coaches.
Cougars coaches were scouting a pitcher on Brandon’s travel squad when they saw Murray face off against Cam Bedrosian, the son of former Braves pitcher Steve and a first-round draft pick of the Angels in 2010.
“He turned on a 92-mph fastball and hit it out of the park,” recalled Cougars coach Monte Lee. “And we said, ‘OK, who’s this guy?’ ”
College of Charleston beat out schools such as Florida Atlantic and Florida International in recruiting Murray, and he showed promise as a freshman, batting .290 in 21 games, mostly as a designated hitter.
But the Cougars needed much more from Murray this season, and he has produced. With Murray available to hit third in the lineup, Lee was able to move SoCon player of the year Marty Gantt to the leadoff spot, boosting the Cougars’ offense.
“We knew Brandon had to step up big for us,” said Gantt, “and he’s done it. It’s big when you can count on a sophomore, and it will help him and the team even more next year.”
Murray, who plays left field next to Gantt in center, credits Gantt for much of his success.
“He’s like my big brother,” Murray said. “He does everything the right way. He doesn’t go out or party a lot, he just works hard and plays baseball, and that’s how I try to be.”
North Augusta Star
May 29, 2012
The next few days may bring some high-level drama for at least one local baseball player, as former North Augusta High School standout Marty Gantt leads College of Charleston's team into the NCAA Division I tournament and awaits his fate in the Major League draft.
Now playing as an outfielder, the lefthander was primarily a pitcher for the Yellow Jackets and helped bring them to the brink of a state title in 2007, with such teammates as Robby Scaggs, Tripp Warrick and Austin Stuart.
The MLB draft for first-year players is set for next week, Monday through Wednesday.
"I'm going to get a call somewhere in the draft. I'm not exactly sure where it will be," Gantt said. "I'm a senior, so I don't really have much leverage. I'll be going wherever they take me. I just hope that I get the opportunity to go play at the next level."
College of Charleston's squad is now in Gainesville, Fla., as the regional tournament's third seed, preparing to face second-seeded Georgia Tech (36-24). Georgia Tech punched its tournament ticket by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, beating Miami 8-5 on Sunday.
Gantt's recent honors included being named the Southern Conference Player of the Year by the league's media. Gantt, now listed at 5-foot-9 and 167 pounds, hit .349 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs for the Cougars, leading the team to a share of the SoCon regular-season title, according to the (Charleston) Post and Courier.
A report from College of Charleston added that Gantt was among his conference's best in several categories. It noted Gantt finished third in the conference with a .369 batting average and a league-best 62 runs scored. He finished second in doubles (19) and third in stolen bases (25), while leading the SoCon in walks (41) and on-base percentage (.481).
Gantt is a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Award and was named to the USA Golden Spikes Award Watch List.
Gantt, whose parents are Bobby and Theresa Gantt, was also named player of the year by the league's coaches, as his squad wrapped up the regular season at 37-20. The Cougars' game is to begin on Friday at 1 p.m., and will be broadcast on ESPN3. Also in the tournament are the regional host, top-seeded Florida (42-18), and fourth seed Bethune-Cookman (34-25).
Referring to Georgia Tech, Gantt said, "They've been playing really good baseball the past two weeks."
Gantt's team tied with Appalachian State for the regular-season SoCon title - the Cougars' first title since 2007. The Cougars, however, stumbled in the conference tournament, losing 8-6 to The Citadel May 23 and 14-12 to Elon May 24.
The SoCon wound up with Samford (39-21) and Appalachian State (39-16) joining College of Charleston as its representatives in this year's NCAA Tournament.
Post and Courier
May 28, 2012
MOUNT PLEASANT — Monte Lee didn’t plan an NCAA Baseball Tournament Selection Show party, it just sort of happened. Figuring the College of Charleston was on a slippery bubble for at-large invitations, the Cougars’ head coach told his players they could watch the ESPNU unveiling at the team’s Patriots Point headquarters or on their own.
Everyone showed up at the ballpark.
“We had an electric atmosphere in here, hoping we had a chance,” senior center fielder Marty Gantt said. “Then when we saw our name, it went crazy.”
The College of Charleston (37-20) is a No. 3 seed in the Gainesville Regional and will play No. 2 Georgia Tech (36-24) on Friday at 1 p.m.
No. 1 Florida (42-18), the top national seed and 2011 College World Series runner-up, will play No. 4 Bethune-Cookman (34-25).
The entire regional will be webcast on ESPN3.
“They’re one of the best programs in the whole country,” Lee said of Georgia Tech. “We know that we have a tall test in trying to compete with those guys. But we’re excited. We’re excited about the opportunity, whether it was in Florida or any other regional.”
It looks like a royal pitching matchup featuring a pair of junior right-handers projected as third-to-sixth round selections in next week’s major league draft.
Charleston’s Christian Powell (9-3, 2.39 earned run average) is the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year; Georgia Tech’s Buck Farmer (8-3, 3.43) has 110 strikeouts in 992/3 innings.
Georgia Tech earned the final spot in the ACC tournament on the last day of the regular season and then as a No. 8 seed went 4-0 in Greensboro to claim the league title.
The Yellow Jackets are second in the powerhouse ACC in batting with a .296 team average (Virginia .298) but 10th in the conference in earned run average (4.33).
Jake Davies, a senior first baseman and middle reliever, is batting .332 with 13 home runs and 69 runs batted in.
Daniel Palka, a sophomore right fielder/first baseman from Greer, is batting .302 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs.
The Cougars rely on pitching and power.
A 3.21 ERA and 63 home runs led the SoCon. Gantt, the SoCon Player of the Year, is batting .375 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs. Brandon Murray has 12 homers and Daniel Aldrich 10.
Pitching staff depth includes Matt Pegler (9-2, 2.92 ERA), already named the Saturday starter in Gainesville, plus closer David Peterson, Josh Renfro, Ryan West, Kyle Owings, Dre Watts and Nick Osterman.
Georgia Tech swept the Cougars in a 2006 Super Regional, the only other meeting between the programs.
Lee, hired in 2009, also took Charleston to the NCAA tournament in 2010, when the Cougars pushed Coastal Carolina to the final game of the Myrtle Beach Regional.
Three Southern Conference teams are in the NCAA tournament field, tying a league record set in 2010 (The Citadel, Charleston and Elon).
Samford won the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament in Greenville and as a No. 3 seed will play No. 2 Mississippi State in Tallahassee. No. 3 Appalachian State will play No. 2 Oklahoma in Charlottesville.
“It’s a great league. I’m grateful that we play in such a good league,” Lee said. “When you have the seventh-rated RPI league in the country and you get three teams in from the Southern Conference, that’s pretty impressive. It’s great to be a part of that kind of league.”