For weeks College of Charleston fans have asked why the Cougars haven't appeared in the top 25 rankings despite their hot start, and for weeks the answer has been the same–we want to see how they fare against quality competition. Well, the competition doesn't get much stiffer than No. 3 South Carolina, which made the trip to Charleston yesterday and left with a 5-4 loss. CofC chased South Carolina junior righthander Jay Brown in the fourth after DH Michael Harrington's two-run homer made it 3-0. The Gamecocks came back to force extra innings, but Cougar second baseman Chris Campbell delivered a walk-off RBI double in the 10th. Charleston's offense is experienced and relentless, with a bona fide star in the middle in catcher Alex Garabedian (whose .333 batting average is actually the lowest of Charleston's regulars). Beating South Carolina improved the Cougars to 12-1 on the year, but more importantly it gave them a quality win to hang their hat on. I'd still like to see how their pitching holds up in a three-game series against a good team before I truly buy in, but that offense is legit.
Elsewhere, No. 8 Rice also succumbed to an upset, losing 7-6 to St. John's. The Owls continue to struggle in the bullpen without Cole St. Clair, yesterday allowing solitary runs in the eighth and ninth innings that proved to be game-winning. In Pearl, Miss., Southern Mississippi blanked Alabama 5-0 behind a brilliant outing from freshman righthander Todd McInnis. A key player on Northwest Rankin High's Mississippi Class 5-A state championship team last year, McInnis once again excelled on a big stage, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Emeel Salem's infield hit with two outs broke up the bid. Southern Miss is making a solid case for the top 25 after taking a three-game series against Louisiana-Lafayette and shutting down a 12-3 Alabama team.
As dominant as McInnis was, he might not have had the best individual performance of the day by a freshman. George Mason first baseman Justin Bour went 4-for-4 with two grand slams and a solo homer in the Patriots' 28-1 win over Coppin State. His nine RBIs broke the school record, and he became just the second Patriot to hit three homers in a game. And how about Evansville junior righthander/DH Tristan Facer, who threw four scoreless, hitless innings in a 19-1 win against Murray State, and also contributed a grand slam in the seventh inning? Talk about doing it all.
Out on the West Coast, there were a pair of dominant pitching performances from players used to pitching on weekends. UC Riverside senior lefthander Mark Rzepczynski appears fully recovered from the elbow injury that bumped him out of the weekend rotation, throwing a complete-game six-hitter in the Highlanders' 4-1 win against No. 20 Southern California. And San Diego sophomore lefthander Josh Romanski shut out UC Irvine for eight innings, allowing just two hits while striking out seven as the Toreros won 2-0. The Anteater coaches were impressed by Romanski, who worked in the 87-91 mph range with his fastball and showed an above-average changeup.