Fall Report: College of CharlestonFall Report
CHARLESTON, S.C. — An early-April series between UC Santa Barbara and College of Charleston proved to be a fork in the road last year. At that point, both teams had RPIs inside the top 15, and it looked like a series between regional host hopefuls. They split the first two games, then settled for a tie in the series finale due to a travel curfew.
The Gauchos went on to make a College World Series run, but the Cougars went in the tank immediately after, losing their next six games and 11 of their next 14. They were swept by Hofstra and then lost series to James Madison, Towson and UNC Wilmington, effectively ending their at-large chances. They played better in the final couple of weekends, but they still finished sixth in the Colonial Athletic Association — a disappointing result for a team that looked like a potential regional host back in April.
“To be honest with you, I thought we had poor leadership last year,” said Matt Heath, Charleston’s second-year head coach. “I thought a lot of guys coming into the program were not ready to be leaders. They didn’t understand what it was to play a 56-game schedule. You’re 30 games in and the RPI’s in the top 15 at that point. I thought they ran out of gas, I thought our young players fatigued. It’s just a long season, and baseball exposes you. It exposed some character issues that we had, and I think that’s been cleaned up. We’ve had a huge changeover in players — you’re talking about 24 new players in the program with 16 returning. There were some apples in there that I didn’t think led this thing the right way. That’s been cleaned up … The character of this team is much, much better. They’re a lot easier to deal with. We haven’t had any off-the-field issues, and that’s a big deal for me.”
In the first game of their fall world series last week, the Cougars played with energy and passion during a tense 13-inning affair. Players in both dugouts clearly wanted to win — there was some good-natured heckling and a lot of spirited cheering. It was exactly what Heath wanted to see.
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