CSU Baseball Completes Tremendous Turnaround SeasonJune 9, 2011
by CSU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The 2011 CSU baseball team had yet to take the field and the obstacles started coming. The devastating death of redshirt freshman Will Bedenbaugh in December left the team in shock. A month later, their eighth-place preseason ranking filled them with disappointment and left them with something to prove.
Head Coach Stuart Lake made the term of the season “accountable urgency,” which was soon complimented with the theme “Will Power” in honor of their fallen teammate. The motivation – and the talent – was there, and the Bucs soon put both to good use.
The result was an amazing transformation. What the league had picked as the eighth place team prior to the season became the third place team; marking CSU’s highest BSC finish since 2002. They also earned their first tournament win since that same season with a 9-3 win over No. 4 Winthrop. CSU reached 29 wins for the first time since the 2000 season, when the Bucs took 2nd in the BSC at 31-31-1; just the fourth time in school history they have recorded 29 wins or more. Their 15 league wins are the most since 2002, and a number of other records were broken along the way. The Bucs set new program records for at bats in a season with 2,049 as well as hits with 611. The pitching staff also found success, and were just two short of the school record 32 wins, but their 16 saves shattered the old mark of 11.
After tough 12-8 loss to the University of North Florida in the season opener, the Bucs bounced back with a 2-1 victory over the Osprey for their first win of the season. The Bucs dropped the series two games to one, but quickly evened out their record with a 5-3 win over previously undefeated Furman of the Southern Conference.
The Bucs hit the road for the first time on February 26, trekking across the state to compete in the First Pitch Invitational hosted by Clemson. After falling to Michigan State and the Tigers, CSU rounded out the weekend with a 9-5 over the Big East’s Cincinnati. The victory kicked off a five-game win streak for the Bucs, as they took a 5-3 contest from Savannah State before sweeping the Saints of Siena. RHP Stew Brase picked up his first win of the season as the Bucs dominated the Saints 14-8, before a Derek Smith single scored Brantley Meier to give the Bucs the 5-4 win in the bottom of the ninth in game two of the double header. RHP Anthony Markham helped CSU pick up another 5-4 win on Sunday, marking the team’s first series sweep since 2008.
USC Upstate’s five-run outburst in the ninth inning led to a 13-10 win, halting the Bucs’ win streak at five. However, the team was able to bounce back and split a four-game series with Fordham, taking the first two games by scores of 11-2 and 4-3 before dropping the final two 7-3 and 10-7, respectively. The Bucs finished up home-and-home series at Savannah State and USC Upstate, splitting the season series with both teams to with an 8-7 loss to the Tigers and 15-13 victory over the Spartans.
Big South Conference action got off to a rocky start for CSU, as the Bucs were swept by the Liberty Flames in Lynchburg, Va., despite complete game by Brase in the series opener. However, the resilient Bucs quickly bounced back with an 11-1 thrashing of Coppin State at CSU Ballpark.
The CSU offense stayed hot, picking up a 12-6 win over Radford for their first BSC win of the season. Picking up 13 hits off of the Highlanders’ pitching staff, the Bucs assured themselves the series win with a 5-4 victory in extra innings in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. A nine-strikeout complete game from Jesse Cadenhead then gave CSU the 3-1 win and their first Big South series sweep in three seasons.
A close 10-9 loss to cross-town rival The Citadel was offset with 14-4 win over the Furman Paladins. The Bucs then took two of three BSC games from the Bulldogs of UNC Asheville, including a 6-0 shutout win due to the combined efforts of Patrick Dolan and Charlie McCready.
A trip to Athens, Ga., to face the No. 30 Georgia Bulldogs was up next for the Bucs. Derek Smith scored the Bucs lone run in their 8-1 loss to UGA before Levi Mauldin and McCready combined for a solid pitching effort as the Bulldogs took the 3-2 contest from the Bucs.
The Bucs were stunned by an 11-0 loss to Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C., but Dolan put on a nine-strikeout, seven inning show to lead the Bucs to the 5-2 win over the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Smith then went 3-for-5 with two runs and Cadenhead struck out four to lead the Bucs past GWU by a score of 6-3, matching their BSC win total from 2010 less than a month into league play.
Next on the agenda was a home-and-home series with cross-town rival the College of Charleston. Cheered on by the CSU football team, a ninth-inning rally fell just short as the Cougars took the first game 10-9. However, the Bucs exacted revenge the next day when pinch runner Ben Qualkinbush scored the game winning run on a COFC miscue in the top of the ninth to hand the Bucs the 4-3 win, their first over the Cougars since 2007.
The Bucs hit a bump in the road soon after, coming out on the wrong end of a three-game sweep by VMI. Back-to-back losses to The Citadel and Winthrop extended the skid to five games. CSU, spurred by Dolan’s seven strikeouts and Walt Quattlebaum’s two runs, downed the Eagles 7-6 to break out of the slump. They then picked up the series win as Cadenhead tied his career high of nine strikeouts in nine innings to pilot the Bucs past the Eagles 7-3.
A disappointing 12-11 loss in extra innings came next, but once again the Bucs bounced back and headed to High Point, N.C., for a match up with the HPU Panthers. Nick Chinners became the school’s all-time hits leader with his 245th career hit as the Bucs took a 5-3 contest from the Panthers. Brantley Meier’s three runs and two RBI then powered CSU to a 10-3 thrashing of HPU in game two. A Tom Burkett grand slam gave the Bucs the game three win, as well as the series sweep, by a score of 13-6. Freshman shortstop Alex Tomasovich became the first CSU position player since 2005 to earn the Choice Hotels Big South Player of the Week honors after going 10-for-15 to hit .667 and scoring five runs on the week.
A match up at defending national champion South Carolina was one of the highlights of the 2011 schedule, despite the Bucs falling to the Gamecocks 11-1. Another highlight- the team’s annual Senior Day- was up next, as CSU hosted future BSC member Presbyterian at CSU Ballpark. Jaren Sustar had five hits in game one, helping the Bucs past the Blue Hose by a score of 18-9. Tomasovich’s three runs powered CSU past PC again in game two 11-9, before the Blue Hose prevented the series sweep with a close 5-4 win on Sunday. Sustar became he second consecutive Buc to earn BSC Player of the Week honors for his efforts. The Bucs then dropped 14-9 home contest to Georgia Southern to finish up the nonconference schedule.
CSU headed to Conway, S.C., to round out the regular season with a three-game BSC series at top-ranked Coastal Carolina. The Bucs’ seven hits weren’t enough as they took the 9-3 loss in game one. However, they were able to rebound with an exciting 4-3 win on Friday evening. Smith drove home Meier in the top of the ninth inning to lead the Bucs past the nationally-ranked Chanticleers, marking the first time CSU has downed CCU since 2007. The Chanticleers took the final game by a score of 10-5, but the Bucs got good news from the final day of BSC action: they would mark their return to the tournament with the number three seed.
The Bucs kicked off their trip to Virginia by bringing home hardware – Head Coach Stuart Lake earned BSC Coach of the Year honors for piloting his team’s turnaround, while five CSU players earned Big South honors. Matt Still and Charlie McCready both earned Big South First Team All-Conference honors, with McCready also earning a spot on the All-Academic team. Walt Quattlebaum, Jaren Sustar and Nick Chinners earned Second Team All-Conference honors.
The Bucs picked up the win over in-state rival Winthrop in their first game at the 2011 Big South tournament, downing the Eagles 9-3. Eight CSU batters recorded at least one hit, and Stew Base pitched a complete game to help preserve the CSU bullpen. The team then took a tough 6-1 loss to Liberty, despite a solid performance by Cadenhead. They attempted to rebound vs. Gardner-Webb, as the double-elimination format would still allow them to advance in the tournament. However, RHP Ali William’s six strikeouts weren’t enough as the Bucs’ 2011 season came to end with a 6-1 loss to the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Despite the loss, the Bucs continued to reap the rewards of their great season. Brase and Quattlebaum were both named to the BSC All-Tournament team, marking the first time in since 2000 a Buccaneer earned the honor. Ali Williams’ solid performance in the tournament may not have gotten him the win, but it did get the attention of professional scouts as he was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 34th round of the MLB Draft. Former Buc Jon Matthews was selected by the Cincinnati Reds, while future Buc CJ Edwards was taken by the Texas Rangers.