MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – College of Charleston baseball returns home this week for a thrilling finish to the 2014 season, starting Tuesday night against rival Coastal Carolina at 6 p.m. at Patriots Point.
Charleston (35-16) has won seven of the last 10 games by an average margin of 1.8 runs in the seven wins, while Coastal Carolina (22-29) has lost of eight of nine since defeating CofC back on April 23.
The Cougars return after winning a series at Hofstra, bolstered by a 2-1 victory in Sunday’s rubber match. Freshman Tyler Thornton had a masterful performance on the mound and Ben Boykin came through with the game-winning RBI in the seventh inning.
CofC secured a bye in the first round of the CAA Tournament by locking up the two seed for the conference tournament at UNCW in two weeks. The Cougars can still win the regular season crown with a sweep of William & Mary at home next weekend.
Charleston won its fourth conference series and did so in dramatic fashion on Sunday. Despite allowing an unearned run in the first inning, CofC rallied to tie the game in the third and take the lead in the seventh. Hofstra had runners on second and third with two outs in the ninth inning, but Eric Ferguson popped up to second base to end it.
Thornton (5-4) recorded his sixth quality start and fourth win in his last five starts as part of the weekend rotation. Today he was named the CAA Pitcher of the Week, the 11th weekly honor for Charleston this year, more than any other team.
RHP Nathan Helvey
3-4, 3.98 ERA, 51 K
0-0, 2.13 ERA, 16 K
RHP Zac Burke
Tuesday’s game will be streamed live on the Charleston Sports Network on Ustream. Fans can also listen Jeff McCarragher on ESPN 910 AM.
Coastal Carolina took an 18-16 lead in the series after defeating CofC, 3-0, in an earlier meeting this year at TicketReturn.com Field. Nathan Helvey had a strong start for the Cougars, allowing just one earned run in seven innings. CofC couldn’t get anything going offensively, as it had just three hits in the game. Charleston has defeated Coastal Carolina in the return game at Patriots Point each of the last two seasons.
Scouting the Opposition
After their win over CofC on April 23, the Chanticleers went cold sliding to a 22-29 record with eight losses in the last nine games to Gardner-Webb, N.C. State and No. 22 Liberty. Coastal averages 4.2 runs per game, led by Connor Owings (.311, 26 RBIs) and Zach Remillard (.269, 32 RBIs).
On the mound, the Chanticleers have a stingy ERA of 3.73 with opponents hitting .262 off them.
CAA Home Stretch
College of Charleston is currently in second place in the CAA with a 13-5 record, behind William & Mary’s 14-3 mark. CofC clinched the two seed and its accompanying first-round bye with the series win at Hofstra. Charleston can win the regular season with a sweep of William & Mary at home this week or with two wins and no losses.
The conference tournament begins on May 21 at Brooks Field on the campus of UNCW. CofC will play its first game on May 22.
Cougars in the Ranks
College of Charleston continues to rank highly in a number of categories in the CAA and nationally. The Cougars lead the conference in team ERA (2.85), opposing batting average (.222), strikeouts (383), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.80) and WHIP (1.13). The Cougars’ WHIP currently ranks 11th in the nation, while the K-to-BB ratio is 12th and ERA is 22nd.
Individually, Charleston has been led by freshman phenom Bailey Ober. Ober leads the conference with an ERA of 1.41 which leads all NCAA freshmen and ranks 18th in the country. He also leads all freshmen with a WHIP of 0.87, ranking 15th nationally. Taylor Clarke leads the league and is 15th in the NCAA in wins (9), while Michael Hanzlik leads the conference and is 13th in the country with 12 saves. Carl Wise is currently second in the CAA with 45 RBIs while ranking seventh in the country with eight sacrifice flies.
Transferring from Towson after Tommy John surgery, Friday night starter Taylor Clarke has been nearly unstoppable all season. He sports an 9-3 record with a 2.55 ERA. He ranks 15th in the nation for his number of wins and fifth in the CAA in ERA. He has held opponents to a .206 batting average which ranks second in the league. Clarke has tallied seven quality starts including six in his last seven starts.
Clarke would be considered one of the front-runners for CAA Pitcher of the Year if not for the guy directly behind him in his own rotation. Ober is making a case for Freshman All-America status with his ERA of 1.41 which leads all freshmen pitchers in the NCAA. Ober has a 7-2 record with 65 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.87, ranking 15th in the country. He is on pace to set a new CofC record for lowest ERA in a single season. Ober has already won five CAA weekly awards.
Strong, Physical Presence
Tyler Thornton is the physical pitcher at the back of the CofC rotation that has quietly become one of Charleston’s most valuable arms. Thornton is coming off a CAA Pitcher of the Week performance at Hofstra where he allowed just three hits in 8.1 innings. Thornton has now won four of his last five start since becoming a weekend starter.
Coming to CofC as the 4A Player of the Year in 2013, he set a single-season state record with 180 strikeouts in his senior year. He had a slow start with several bad outings out of the bullpen. While his overall ERA is a respectable 3.13, his ERA as a starter is a staggering 2.31. He has allowed just five walks in 11 games started, leading the CAA fewest walks allowed.
Starting Out Quality
CofC’s starting pitching has had to step up with a number of injuries to starters and main bullpen contributors. Starting pitchers have now thrown 27 quality starts this season, including 19 quality starts in the last 25 games. Over those 25 games, CofC starters have a 2.14 ERA with an average of 6.39 innings pitched per outing. The program record for quality starts was 40 back in 2006.
CofC’s weekend rotation of Clarke, Ober and Tyler Thornton has a combined ERA of 2.36, ranking 12th in the country. CofC’s overall staff ERA is 2.85 which ranks 22nd nationally and currently stands as the best single-season mark for any CofC team.
Hanzlik’s Got This
Senior closer Michael Hanzlik adjusted his delivery to a sidearm motion before his first year at CofC in the fall of 2012. 18 months later, that approach has made Hanzlik one of the top relievers in school history. The Blythewood, S.C., native leads the league and ranks 13th in the nation with 12 saves. In his last five appearances, he has made three saves and won two games. He now ranks fourth all-time for saves in a single season at CofC.
Hanzlik has yet to blow a save opportunity this season and became the first CofC player in the 2000s to save two games in the same day in a DH vs. Michigan.
He has averaged more than a strikeout per inning pitched and has a season ERA of 3.56.
Reliever Chase Henry was named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List in April. He sports a 2-0 record with a 1.79 ERA and currently leads the CAA with 25 appearances, tying teammate Hanzlik. Henry has 47 strikeouts against 12 walks for a K-to-BB ratio of 3.91. Opponents are hitting just .211 against him.
Captain Welke In Command
Senior captain Ryan Welke started the year hitting .400 but hit a rough patch with just one hit in 13 games. He since turned it around in CAA play with a .380 average against conference opponents, second-best on the team. Welke has hits in 12 of 15 games played in the CAA with two three-hit games and a career-best five-RBI game against Delaware. He hit a big, three-run HR in a win at Hofstra.
The Wise Man Says...
Sophomore Carl Wise has not been the power hitter that CofC fans expected in 2014, hitting just one homer, but he’s certainly produced runs at a high rate.
Wise ranks second in the conference with 45 RBIs, leading the team with 14 multiple-RBI games.
Wise has hit .397 with runners in scoring position and has 20 RBIs in 22 opportunities with a runner on third and less than two out. Wise’s eight sacrifice flies lead the conference and rank third all-time for a single season at CofC.