The University of Charleston baseball team’s journey through the Mountain East baseball tournament has been quite an adventure, but it had one very happy ending for the Golden Eagles.
UC rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to jump ahead and stay ahead of Notre Dame College, holding on for a 9-8 win and a second straight Mountain East tournament title. Charleston, a No. 6 seed, now heads to West Chester for a first-round matchup with No. 3 seed Gannon on Thursday in the Atlantic Regional tournament. The winner of that game faces No. 2 seed West Chester in the next round.
Charleston coach Andrew Wright, the reigning MEC Coach of the Year, applauded his team’s toughness and fortitude over the entire tournament.
“We’ve got guys with broken toes and messed up ankles,” he said on the post-game broadcast. “Brice [Arrington] can’t lift his right arm over his right shoulder. We’re down a couple of weekend arms.
“But ... we powered through it,” he continued after receiving a celebratory ice bath from his players, “and put ourselves in a position to win. It was a complete team effort and has been the entire year.”
It was high drama for the Golden Eagles (37-17) for much of the tournament, which began with a pair of extra-inning walk-off wins and ended with a comeback in a game that spanned over two days due to Saturday night fog at Epling Stadium in Beckley.
When play was suspended Saturday night, Notre Dame had turned a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead in the top of the sixth. The Falcons actually pushed that advantage to 7-4 by the time their turn at bat was over.
That didn’t shake Charleston, whose bats exploded again in the bottom of the sixth. The Golden Eagles got started with Austin Hathaway’s RBI double to right center that scored Jesse Elliott. Then Colby Johnson brought Hathaway home with an RBI single up the middle on the first pitch he saw.
It was All-MEC first-teamer Gianfranco Morello who regained the lead for UC with his two-run double to left center, which put Charleston ahead 8-7. Then Hayden Cartt’s triple scored Morello for an insurance run and a 9-7 lead.
“It’s tough to go to sleep behind,” Wright said. “So just sleeping on that over the course of the evening, we had a really good session down in the [batting practice] cages. Our guys just answered back against a little bit of adversity when we finished the sixth.”
The Golden Eagles would need that insurance run. Notre Dame tried a rally of its own with a Ricky Phillips home run in the top of the ninth that cut the lead to one, but that was all the Falcons could muster.
Robert Fultineer pitched 31/3 innings for the win, striking out four, walking two and giving up two earned runs. Levi Nash earned the save for the Golden Eagles. Morello and Cartt each drove in three runs for Charleston against Notre Dame, with Cartt going 3 for 4 with a double and a triple.
Sunday’s win continued Charleston’s rise. It marks the third straight year that UC has won more games in a season than it had in the previous season. The Golden Eagles finished with 36 wins in 2018 and 34 wins in 2017.
“I’ve been telling these guys since I’ve stepped on campus that the expectation was to be in a regional,” Wright said. “Unfortunately, this year, we had to win our way in, and we’re going to go act like a regional team this week and try to make some noise to try to represent the Mountain East really well.”