By Jackson Fuller
The University of North Carolina Wilmington hosted the Colonial Athletic Association baseball tournament May 21-24, when an automatic berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament was on the line.
The College of Charleston Cougars won the first conference tournament title since 2006, defeating regular season champion the College of William & Mary Tribe by a final score of 6-4 during the tournament finale Saturday.
This was the Cougars’ first year in the CAA and their win clinches a sixth appearance in the NCAA baseball championship.
“I’m proud of how our guys approached this tournament,” said Monte Lee, Cougars’ head coach. “We were loose. Our guys had fun and played together. It was an all-around team effort.”
The Cougars played the minimum three games to win the double elimination tournament. They received a first round bye with their second-place regular season finish in the CAA. This bye and an early win in the tournament allowed the Cougars to set up their pitching rotation as if it were just another three-game series, a luxury no other team in the tournament experienced.
“It did help us; obviously you’re in a position to play three games as opposed to four or five,” Lee said. “Nobody’s got the pitching in college baseball to be able to play five games and have success with keeping someone from scoring.”
In the championship, Cougar freshman pitcher Tyler Thornton threw eight shutout innings and improved his record to 6-5 on the season. Thornton tied a career high with eight strikeouts, and at one point retired 10 straight Tribe batters.
Freshman Bailey Ober was named the CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player after tossing a complete game shutout against the Tribe on Friday in the semifinal.
The Cougars will head to the Gainesville Regional to take on the University of Florida, University of North Carolina and Long Beach State University. The Cougars will open the regional against the Florida Gators Friday, May 30.
The hometown UNCW Seahawks were eliminated from the tournament on Friday, May 23, with a 12-6 loss to the Tribe. The Seahawks won their opening game against the James Madison University Duke Dogs before losing to the Cougars in a quarterfinal match up.
The loss knocked the Seahawks into the losers’ bracket and forced them to play a double header on Friday. They started off the day with a victory over the University of Delaware Blue Hens before losing the nightcap.
The Seahawks finished the season with a 30-27 record. Despite being the preseason favorites to win the conference, they finished third in the CAA in both the regular season and the tournament.
“This is always a tough time in the year,” said Mark Scalf, Seahawks head coach. “It comes for every team in the country except one at some point. Unfortunately for us, it was a day earlier than what we had hoped for.”