GAINESVILLE, Fla. – College of Charleston (44-17) swept through the NCAA Gainesville Regional with three straight victories, including a 4-2 win over Long Beach State (34-26) on Monday, to win the regional and advance to a Super Regional.
College of Charleston won its second regional in program history as the Cougars defeated No. 8 Florida on Friday night, followed by consecutive wins over Long Beach State on Saturday and Monday. The Cougars have won six games in a row after sweeping last weekend’s CAA Tournament.
The Cougars are just the fourth four seed to ever reach a Super Regional since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1999. Stony Brook advanced to the College World Series as a four seed in 2012.
College of Charleston last reached a Super Regional in 2006 when the Cougars won the Lexington Regional and advanced to face Georgia Tech in Atlanta. CofC is just the second team to advance to a Super Regional from the CAA after ECU did it in 2001.
Head Coach Monte Lee is now 6-4 in three NCAA tournament appearances. 2014 marks his first NCAA Regional title.
“I’m so proud of this group of young men,” Lee said. “They are a special team to coach and they have been having so much fun the last couple of weeks. We have been playing loose and scoring early. We are very successful when we score first and put pressure on our opponents, and we scored first in every game of the regional. Our pitching staff had a fantastic weekend and Tyler Thornton was fantastic today. I am humbled to get to coach this incredible group and excited that we get to keep playing baseball.”
CofC’s starting pitching carried the team throughout the season and freshman Tyler Thornton continued that trend on Monday. Thornton was named Regional MVP after pitching a complete game on Monday, allowing just two runs on four hits while striking out four. Thornton was coming off an eight-inning shutout performance against William & Mary to win the CAA tournament championship just a week before.
For the third-straight game, College of Charleston got on the scoreboard in the first inning with a walk from Brandon Murray and an RBI base hit from Carl Wise. The Cougars extended their season record to 30-2 when scoring first.
Long Beach State responded in the bottom half of the first inning with two runs on two hits, including RBIs from Richard Prigatano and Johnny Bekakis. However, Thornton’s strong pitching and CofC’s defense held down the Dirtbag offense after the first inning. LBSU only managed two hits and four baserunners after the first inning.
CofC tallied the tying run in the top of the third inning when Blake Butler launched a one-out double. He moved to third base on a groundout and came home when Wise reached on a throwing error from the third baseman.
The fourth inning started well for the Cougars when Ryan Welke reached on a walk and Ben Boykin was hit by a pitch. The runners moved to second and third after a wild pitch. Morgan Phillips tallied an RBI with a foul-out down the right-field line and then Boykin came home to score on another wild pitch.
The Dirtbags’ miscues were all that CofC needed to build a 4-2 lead and hold it for the duration. Thornton used a 4-6-3 double play to erase a leadoff baserunner in the seventh and then tallied a strikeout in the eighth inning. Wise snagged a hard-hit ball in the ninth inning and then Phillips caught a fly ball to center for the final out.
Nick Pappas finished the regional with a team-high four RBIs, while Wise led CofC with a .364 batting average. College of Charleston posted a team ERA of 2.33 through the three regional games.
College of Charleston will now face Texas Tech in a Super Regional, best-of-three weekend. The winner will earn a berth to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The NCAA will announce locations and start times for the Super Regionals on Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.