Charleston rebounded from a tough series loss to The Citadel with a win on Sunday against the Bulldogs, 7-5, and a 10-0 shutout of Jacksonville at home on Tuesday night.
In the win over the Dolphins, Brandon Murray and Ryan Welke each homered, while Gunnar Heidt tallied three RBI. Nathan Helvey pitched five shutout innings with a career-high six strikeouts as the Cougars notched their third shutout of the season.
Before Saturday’s game, head coach Monte Lee and staff will honor the careers of Dre Watts, Matt Pegler, Jake Zokan, Drew Freie, Ryan West, Griffin Jones, Cody Martin, Bradley Goodson, Jimmy Revan and Tyler Jackson.
This weekend will also mark the final time that College of Charleston plays a regular season contest in the Southern Conference, as the school is moving to the Colonial Athletic Association next year. In the Cougars’ 15 years in the league, they have so far compiled five SoCon championships, a league record of 283-148, six Player of the Year awards, five Pitcher of the Year awards, one Freshman of the Year award and three Coach of the Year awards.
The Cougars have the three winningest seasons in SoCon baseball history (2005-48; 2004-47; 2006-46), and have the SoCon’s best seasons in batting average (2005-355), runs (2008-627), hits (2005-814), doubles (2005-174), triples (2002-42), RBIs (2008-589), slugging percentage (2008-.607) and opposing batting average (2006-.238).
Saturday’s game will be special for many Cougar fans as the College of Charleston honors its seniors before the game. That day will also be Military Appreciation Day as those patrons with a military ID will receive up to four free tickets at the gate. Players from the Mt. Pleasant Recreation Department and the Charleston Miracle League will also receive free tickets with discounted prices for family members. Finally, there will be a Cougar Club tailgate with free food before the game in the parking lot.
All of the games in this weekend’s final series will be aired on ESPN 910 AM with Jeff McCarragher and Rob Harding. Fans can also watch the games online at CofCSports.com through the Charleston Sports Network.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Thursday RHP Justin Hess GSU 4-5, 4.12 ERA, 78.2 IP, 31 BB, 98 K
LHP #30 Jake Zokan CofC 3-2, 2.96 ERA, 67.0 IP, 13 BB, 65 K
Friday LHP Sam Howard GSU 6-7, 5.94 ERA, 72.2 IP, 31 BB, 75 K
RHP #29 Ryan West CofC 4-2, 4.30 ERA, 60.2 IP, 18 BB, 66 K
Saturday RHP Josh Stevenson GSU 1-4, 7.02 ERA, 59.0 IP, 19 BB, 54 K
RHP #22 Matt Pegler CofC 4-2, 3.71 ERA, 85.0 IP, 13 BB, 69 K
SERIES VS. GEORGIA SOUTHERN
The Eagles won two of three from Charleston in last season’s series at Statesboro, Ga., to cut CofC’s lead in the all-time series to 27-25. Despite the intensity of the rivalry between the two baseball powers, the Cougars and Eagles have never played each other in the last SoCon series of the season.
SCOUTING THE EAGLES
After starting off the conference season strong, the Eagles fell back to the middle of the pack with series losses to UNCG, App State, The Citadel and WCU. After starting 9-1 in SoCon play, GSU has gone 4-13 against league teams.
Georgia Southern is second to last in the league with a .262 batting average, while they rank seventh with a 5.47 ERA. The Eagles are led by local native, Robbie Dodds. Dodds has a team-best .330 batting average with 31 RBI. T.D. Davis leads the squad with 12 home runs and a .537 slugging percentage.
Heading into this final weekend, these 10 seniors have been a part of 149 Cougar wins in four years with a SoCon regular season championship in 2012 and at-large berths to the NCAA Regionals in 2010 and 2012. The group has a combined SoCon record of 76-40 and came just one win away from an NCAA Super Regional in 2010.
Pegler currently ranks fifth all-time in winning percentage (.750), eighth in innings pitched (238.1), eighth in wins (18) and eighth in strikeouts (186). Last year, he became just the third player in school history to post a 10-win season, and was an All-Regional selection after his complete game, two-hit victory over Bethune-Cookman.
Watts ranks seventh all-time in career saves (8) and sixth in career ERA (3.28). He has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning pitched over his career with a 5-2 record exclusively out of the bullpen.
Zokan’s earned run average of 2.96 in this one season ranks 12th all-time (min. 40 innings) as he heads into his final few starts.
This season, Drew Freie leads the team with 26 total appearances and a team-high nine decisions. He has a record of 4-5 with a 5.63 ERA.
Ryan West earned himself a weekend starting spot this season after starting in the bullpen. He has a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.30. His 8-5 career record includes a win at No. 8 South Carolina and six hitless innings in a near-perfect game at Jacksonville.
Cody Martin and Bradley Goodson enter their final weekend with nearly identical career numbers. Martin, a 2012 All-Regional honoree, has a .258 batting average with 52 RBIs, while Goodson, a 2012 All-SoCon recipient, has hit .259 with nine homer and 57 RBIs. Tyler Jackson has 35 RBIs for his career with six home runs.
Griffin Jones sports a 1.89 ERA in six appearances, as he’s only allowed four earned runs. He has one win in two starts this year. Jimmy Revan made his first appearances in his senior season and picked up his only career win in a stellar four and 1/3-inning, four-strikeout relief appearance at Samford.
PUSH FOR THE FINISH
The 2013 season 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 with one series left they can finish as high as second place or as low as sixth in the SoCon regular season.
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.
NEW YEAR, SAME ERA
Although traditionally known as a hitting power, College of Charleston has become a pitching dynamo in the last two seasons with pitching coach Matt Heath. After leading the league in ERA last year, the Cougars are back at it despite losing four pitchers to the pros. The Cougars are first in the conference with a staff ERA of 4.06. They are first in opposing batting average (.262), first in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.62) and first in walks allowed (151).
STRONG STARTING ROTATION
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 22 quality starts (Pegler 6, Zokan 6, Helvey 5, West 5) with a combined starter ERA of 3.27 with 206 strikeouts against just 45 walks for K-to-BB ratio of 4.57.
Zokan is currently second in the SoCon with a 2.96 ERA, and he is second in the league in strikeouts looking (28).
Ryan West has only allowed 14 earned runs in his seven starts this season, which have come in the last two month. In his last six starts, five have been quality and he has averaged 6.3 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. He came back to pick up his third-straight win this past weekend at Citadel.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
All season, head coach Monte Lee has preached the importance of aggressive hitting, strike-throwing and strong defense. Despite a recent hiccup in infield defense over the past three games, the Cougars still rank third in the SoCon with a fielding percentage of .963.
STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM, NOW HE’S HERE
Despite being near the bottom of last year’s lineup in offensive statistics, sophomore SS Gunnar Heidt has made a push for All-Conference honors in just his second season at CofC. He now has a team-high .348 batting average with 48 runs scored (6th in SoCon) and a SoCon-high six triples, which currently ties him for seventh nationally. He has a .538 slugging percentage with 52 RBIs. He was named the SoCon Player of the Month for March.
MURRAY WINS NATIONAL HONOR
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 fifth in the league with 52 RBI.
Against SoCon-only competition, Murray ranks fifth in batting average (.398), third in slugging (.673), fourth in on-base percentage (.487) and fourth in RBI (32).
A WISE MAN ONCE SAID...
...put Carl Wise into the starting lineup. Since becoming an everyday starter vs. UNCG, true freshman Wise has hit .321 with 13 RBI and a .506 slugging percentage. In those 23 games, Wise has eight extra-base hits and has reached base safely in all but four contests.
MR. BUTLER AT YOUR SERVICE
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 now second on the team with a .317 batting average and has a .422 on-base percentage. He has been strong at the leadoff position as Butler has hit .465 when leading off an inning.
PHILLY FROM NYC
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 .408 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and is currently slugging .474 with a team-high 14 doubles.
DON’T LEAVE BEFORE STRETCHING
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.
THAT FOURTH INNING THING...AGAIN?
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 24-5 when holding a lead after the fourth, and 2-17 when trailing after the fourth inning.