Inside CofC’s Dramatic TurnaroundAt The Ballpark
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Late in College of Charleston’s Sunday’s doubleheader sweep of James Madison on Sunday, a CofC hitter struck out, and a lone fan hollered into the momentary silence, “KICKIN’ CHICKEN!”
The fan could be forgiven for forgetting that the Charleston public address announcer only alerts fans about “Another Kickin’ Chicken strikeout” after CofC pitchers fan an opposing hitter, and not the other way around. By the end of the day Sunday, everyone at the Ballpark at Patriots Point had heard the marketing phrase enough times to scramble their brains with endless thoughts of buffalo wings for the next week.
Griffin McLarty and Nathan Ocker combined for 16 strikeouts in an eight-inning victory in Game One of Sunday’s twin bill, and then Jakob Frishmuth and Carter Love fanned 11 more Dukes in Game Two. Throw in Evan Sisk’s 13-strikeout performance and three more Ks from the bullpen in Friday’s 6-4 win, and Charleston finished the weekend with 43 punchouts in the three-game sweep, against just five walks.
If you’re looking for a major reason why Charleston’s staff ERA has plummeted from 5.37 a year ago to 2.75 (sixth-best in the nation) in 2018, start by looking at the strikeout-walk rate. In 2017, Charleston pitchers struck out 7.8 batters per nine innings and walked 2.5. This spring, the strikeout rate has climbed to 8.6 per nine, while the walk rate has shrunk to 2.27 per nine — the best mark in Division I. Charleston also leads the country with a 3.79-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“I think we go in with more of a strikeout mentality,” said Love, a senior reliever who set the school record for career appearances in Sunday’s finale. “Last year, and in years past, which somewhat worked, we went for more of weak contact early. Now we’re thinking strikeouts, put them away early. Starters go deep, and I think Friday and Saturday we’re averaging six or seven innings per game. It’s been unbelievable watching Evan and Griffin, and Frish has done amazing too, just getting quality starts, and then we’ve got some great arms at the back end. So it’s been awesome, and (pitching coach Will) Dorton just does a phenomenal job not only preparing us physically, but also giving us a great plan.”