June 3, 2005
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Brett Gardner hasn’t had too many oh-fers for College of Charleston this season. And the nation’s leader in hits wasn’t about to take one in the NCAA tournament.
Gardner’s sharp single into right drove in two runs and extended his hitting streak to 25 games in the Cougars 5-2 victory over Oral Roberts to start the NCAA regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Gardner had been held hitless only three times in 60 games coming in. He had 120 hits for Charleston (48-13), two in front of Florida State’s Shane Robinson, for the most in the country heading into the NCAAs.
So Gardner, the Cougars’ leadoff hitter, was determined to get his tournament going in the sixth with the bases loaded after flying to right, striking out and walking off Golden Eagles starter Dennis Bigley.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re 0-for-6 or 4-for-4, you’ve got to know to you’re better than that guy standing on the hill,” Gardner said. “You’ve got to know you’ve got to come through in that kind of situation.”
Gardner did, bouncing a ball into the hole between second and first, just out of reach of Oral Roberts’ Brian Hanson. Jess Easterling and Brett Anderson scored with Charleston’s final runs.
“Thank goodness I got a good pitch to hit and got it through the right side,” Gardner said.
With starter Ryan Edell (8-2) keeping Oral Roberts (40-19) off balance most of the way, the runs more than stood up. The Cougars await either top seed CLEMSON or North Carolina A&T on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles will play the CLEMSON-N.C. A&T loser to keep their season going.
Oral Roberts coach Rob Walton said his team struggled at the plate. “It was probably our ‘C’ or ‘D’ game,” Walton said. “And still we had a chance to win. So I think we’ll take the positives out of this.”
There weren’t a lot for the Mid-Continent Conference champions.
Charleston’s Edell retired the first 13 batters before Ricky Rivera’s homer in the fifth inning.
Edell allowed one more run an inning later on an RBI triple with one out by Texas transfer Michael Hollimon. But Edell then struck out Tim Torres and got Kelly Minissale on a grounder to second to end the threat.
Edell finally came out of the game with two on and two outs in the eighth. Brett Harker struck out Torres and finished the ninth for his 15th save of the season.
Charleston lost its regional opener a year ago to Southern Miss at LSU before coming through the loser’s bracket to face the host school in the championship. This time, though, Cougars coach John Pawlowski thought his players were much more confident and relaxed, even as its offense struggled early on. “I think we’ve got a little different mind-set,” he said.
Bigley (11-4), Oral Roberts’ ace, kept things close until the sixth when he gave up a single to D.J. Wabick and three consecutive walks to break a 2-all tie.
Bigley gave up seven walks and was charged with all five runs. “I’m not going to blame anything but myself,” said Bigley, a senior who has won a school record 41 games in his career. “By far it wasn’t my best start of the year. I had trouble finding the zone.”
Chris Campbell had a two-run homer to start Charleston’s scoring in the fourth. It was Campbell’s 15th home run of the season.
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