In the University of Charleston’s NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional opener against Bloomsburg on Thursday, the Golden Eagles just never could get the big hit in a 3-2 loss, dropping the team to the losers bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
After earning a rematch with the Huskies with a win over West Virginia State on Friday, UC wasn’t going to let opportunities fall by the wayside again.
This time, Charleston got that big hit — on several occasions.
With pitching arms running thin on both sides, Charleston put together a 20-hit, six-walk barrage, using its relentless offense, particularly in the middle and late innings, to defeat the Huskies 14-8 to advance in the losers bracket at Segra Field in the Welch Athletic Complex in Charleston.
With the victory, Charleston went on to play Millersville in Saturday’s nightcap in a third elimination game in two days. The winner of that game would advance to play on Sunday, when it would need two wins over top-seeded Seton Hill to claim the regional title and a berth in the eight-team Division II championship tournament. The Golden Eagles and Marauders were still playing at press time.
Earlier Saturday, Charleston picked up right where it left off on Friday, when the Golden Eagles piled 12 runs and 16 hits on the Yellow Jackets in a 12-8 victory. UC bested both of those totals on a cold and gloomy Saturday, scoring seven runs in the fifth inning to take a big lead and scratching four more across in the eighth to hold the hard-charging Huskies at bay.
“It’s a lot more fun that way,” UC coach Robbie Britt said. “Complete effort, and at this point in the tournament that’s what it has to be — you have to have all three phases of the game because no lead is safe.
“The offense understood that ‘Hey, we’re going to have to score more runs,’ and they did just that.”
The teams traded the lead early. Charleston scored just two batters into the game as Colby Johnson drew a walk, stole second, advanced to third on an error and scored on a Bryce Toussaint single. UC’s Colt Webb walked Bloomsburg’s Chad Cooperman and Jake Reed to start the third and both scored on a single from Gianni Sinatore to give the Huskies the lead at 2-1.
Charleston responded in the fourth, getting a run on a sacrifice fly from Johnson, but seemingly took control in the fifth. Tyler Dellerman gave UC the lead when he launched a solo home run to right-center to lead off the frame, and it was followed by a bunt single from Drew Hefner, a walk for Braxton Boddorf and a single for Mitchell Vincent to load the bases with none out.
The Huskies went to their bullpen for the first of five times and UC’s Hayden Cartt greeted reliever Dylan Lubinski with a shot over the left-field fence. The grand slam put the Golden Eagles up 7-2.
“He started me off off-speed — I knew they were going to work those pitches on me. They got a good change-up on the outside corner, and on the next pitch threw it again, left it a little more in, and I just got good wood on it,” Cartt said.
Still, UC wasn’t done. After a line out, Jesse Ellott, who homered twice in Friday’s win, doubled and scored on an RBI hit by Johnson, who then came around to score on an RBI single from Dellerman. By the time Bloomsburg escaped the fifth, it was looking at a 9-2 deficit.
Bloomsburg responded immediately, plating four runs of its own in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run double from Ben Newbert. After Charleston scored a single run in the seventh on an RBI hit from Costigan, the Huskies answered with two more in the bottom half, with Sinatore and Cole Swiger each registering RBI hits.
That made the score 10-8 going to the top of the eighth, but Charleston came up with the knockout punch, getting a two-run ground-rule double from Vincent followed by RBI hits for Cartt and Elliott.
Cartt finished the day going 3 for 4 with four runs and five RBI, one of six multi-hit efforts for Charleston. Every player in the lineup had at least one hit, with seven scoring at least a run and seven driving in at least one.
“We usually try to stick to our game plan — playing small ball and getting big hits when we need it,” Cartt said. “We’ve just got to keep it going the next game.”
Other standouts for UC included Hefner (4 for 6), Dellerman (2 for 6, two RBI), Boddorf (4 for 6), Vincent (2 for 6, 2 RBI) and Elliott (2 for 4).
Swiger drove in three for the Huskies (24-18) and had two hits, as did Carter Chasanov and Sinatore.