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Cougars Ready For 2013 Southern Conference Tournament
Release: 05/21/2013
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GREENVILLE, S.C. – College of Charleston (31-24, 18-11) ended its regular season on a five-game winning streak, including a sweep of Georgia Southern, to secure the two seed in the 2013 Southern Conference Baseball Championship.

The seed means that the Cougars will have a rematch with Georgia Southern (25-30, 13-17) at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night. Third-seeded Elon and host Furman are also in the Cougars' side of the bracket. For the second year in a row, the conference tournament will be held at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C.

Over the weekend, the Cougars averaged six runs a game and limited the Eagles to just 10 total runs and 23 hits as CofC registered its only home sweep of the season.

Carl Wise and Blake Butler each came up big for the Cougar offense with seven hits and four runs apiece as Wise knocked three homers and drove in eight runs. CofC also got much-needed clutch hitting from Ben Boykin and Alex Pastorius who were looking to get off recent skids at the plate.

The Cougars also got great relief pitching from Derrick Smith and Blake Ross. Each player picked up a win and worked through jams in the middle innings to set up Dre Watts in his two-save performance.

Saturday’s come-from-behind win marked just the third time that CofC has won this season after trailing in the fifth inning. However, the game was a pyrrhic victory for the Cougars as Matt Pegler was hit with a comebacker in the first inning. His status for the tournament is doubtful with a hairline fracture in his pitching hand.

The 2013 tournament will be the last Southern Conference for competition for College of Charleston as the Cougars will head to the CAA next season. In the Cougars’ 15 years in the league, they have so far compiled five SoCon championships, a league record of 286-148 (second-highest winning percentage in that time frame), 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).

Every game of the Southern Conference Tournament will be aired locally on ESPN 910 AM with Jeff McCarragher calling the action. Fans can watch streaming footage on, while the championship game will be aired on ESPN3.

College of Charleston will face Georgia Southern after just sweeping the Eagles in the final weekend of the regular season. The Cougars are 30-25 all-time against GSU and 3-7 against them in the SoCon Tournament.

College of Charleston will be making its 15th and final run in the SoCon baseball tournament this week. The Cougars are 26-25 in tournament play with the only title coming in 2006, when CofC was a two seed. Since CofC joined the conference, only five regular season champions have won the conference tournament.

Charleston will be looking to get off the snide at Fluor Field where the Cougars are a combined 0-4 in two conference tournaments. Last season, CofC was a two seed and lost to The Citadel, 8-6, in 11 innings, and then was eliminated by Elon, 14-12.

The last time that Charleston opened a tournament against GSU was in 2011 when the Cougars started the night game just before midnight. The Eagles won that contest 4-2 and went on to eventually win the tournament.

In the last 10 years, CofC is 4-6 in the first game of the tournament and 13-10 in day games and 5-6 in night contests.

College of Charleston second baseman Blake Butler and outfielder Brandon Murray were named All-SoCon Second Team, the conference office announced Monday. Butler and Murray were both named second team second base and outfield, respectively, on the coaches and media ballots.

The Cougars also had a league-high three freshman named to the All-Freshman team in starting pitcher Nathan Helvey, infielder Carl Wise and Butler. This season marked the first time that the Cougars have had three freshmen on the league All-Freshman team.

A native of Nassau, Bahamas, Murray finished sixth in the league with 53 RBIs and was second with 42 walks. In SoCon-only competition, Murray sported a .636 slugging percentage which ranked sixth in the league. His nine season home runs led the Cougars, making him the regular season team leader in HRs for the second-straight season. Murray was named a national Louisville Slugger Player of the Week after setting a school record with nine RBIs in a single game, hitting a grand slam, three-run homer and two-run double in a win at Davidson (4/14).

Butler finished the season on a tear as the Cougars’ leadoff hitter. Hailing from Greensboro, N.C., he has hit safely in 21 of his last 23 games and finished the season with a .332 batting average, ranking second on the squad. Butler sported a .433 on-base percentage and made just four errors at second base, despite moving there in the second weekend of the season. In the Cougars’ recent five-game winning streak, Butler hit .619 with nine runs and five steals, including the game-winning run in Friday’s walk-off victory. He was one of just two freshmen to earn All-SoCon Second Team honors.

Despite only starting 36 games, Wise has been an offensive dynamo in the Cougars lineup. He hit eight home runs on the season with three coming in the final weekend against GSU. His .554 slugging percentage led the team, and he reached base at a team-best .441 clip. Hailing from Lexington, S.C., Wise has played third, first and hit as the DH in the Cougars lineup, and his first career hit was a pinch-hit solo home run against Charleston Southern. Wise sported a .667 slugging percentage against SoCon-only competition which ranked fourth in the league.

Freshman hurler Nathan Helvey battled injury in the middle of the season, but still finished with 3.06 ERA and 5-3 record, the most wins of any Cougar pitcher. A native of Fort Mill, S.C., Helvey allowed just 17 earned runs and five of his 10 starts were quality starts. He helped lead a Cougar pitching staff that led the SoCon with a 3.99 ERA, earning wins over nationally-ranked South Alabama and an eight-inning, partial-shutout outing against Samford.

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 3.99. They are first in opposing batting average (.260), first in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.62) and first in walks allowed (158).

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.

While Helvey missed several starts due to injury, he has fully recovered and will be available in the conference tournament after a partial shutout of Jacksonville on Tuesday. Matt Pegler, however, is doubtful for the tournament after suffering a hairline fracture in his pitching hand in the last game of the regular season.

Gunnar Heidt became first player since Alex Garabedian in 2006 to lead the Cougars in batting average and not be named All-Southern Conference. He will look to make a splash in the postseason as he leads the team with a .344 batting average with 48 runs scored and a SoCon-high six triples, which currently ties him for 16th nationally. He ranks sixth in the league with 53 RBIs and boasts a .527 slugging percentage. He leads the team with 12 steals and was named the SoCon Player of the Month for March.

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 .395 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and is currently slugging .462 with 14 doubles. He hit a game-winning, walk-off sacrifice fly to defeat GSU last Friday.

Senior closer Dre Watts came on strong in the final week of the season, working three multiple-inning saves to finish the regular season with eight saves, currently tied for seventh in the CofC record books. He sports a flashy 1.86 ERA and a 3-1 record despite a two-run homer to GSU in the final game of the regular season. He leads the team in strikeouts per inning pitched (1.11).

Relievers Blake Ross and Derrick Smith are listed at 5-10 and under, but both have been deadly out of the bullpen in the final season stretch.

Ross was a walk-on combo player that overcame an injury last season and has blossomed into a go-to guy in the bullpen. Subtracting his three starts, he has a 2.05 ERA out of the bullpen with a 2-0 record. Opponents are hitting just .220 off of him and he’s recorded 21 strikeouts.

Smith returned to the team after regaining his academic eligibility in May. Since returning, he has compiled a 1-0 record and allowed just three runs in 7.2 innings, striking out six.

College of Charleston has played 25 games that have either been decided or one-run games in the seventh inning or later. The Cougars are 12-13 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 4-7 in one-run games and 2-3 in extra-inning games this season. Cougar relief pitchers have accounted for 26 decisions this year, going 14-12 as a bullpen.

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 26-5 when holding a lead after the fourth, and 3-17 when trailing after the fourth inning.

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