BY SUNDAY, Monte Lee had a couple of days to reflect on his College of Charleston baseball team’s game Friday against William & Mary. Going back over the 23-inning marathon, Lee kept repeating the same word to describe it.
“Crazy,” he said. “Just crazy. It was just a crazy game for both sides,”
A single by Morgan Phillips sent Erven Roper across home plate to give College of Charleston a 3-2 victory and mercifully end the second-longest game in college baseball history after six hours and three minutes and 613 pitches.
“It was really something to watch, I can tell you that,” Lee said. “It truly didn’t seem like it was ever going to end.”
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Normally, there is no room for great celebration and a dog pile by the winning team following a regular-season game. In this case, that was perfectly OK because the only longer game in college baseball history went 25 innings in 2009 between Texas and Boston College. (McNeese State and Louisiana-Lafayette also played 23 innings in 1971).
Lee was not among those celebrating on the field at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant. As soon as the game concluded, he headed directly to home plate umpire Greg Walls and demanded that the scheduled second game of the doubleheader be postponed. William & Mary coach Brian Murphy agreed that a second game could only be harmful to both teams.
“We can’t do that,” Lee said he told the umpire, who rescheduled the next game as part of a Saturday doubleheader.
Everyone had seen enough baseball for one day. They had witnessed a season’s worth of twists and turns.
William & Mary center fielder Derek Lowe went hitless in nine at-bats. Teammate Kevin Casey was hitless in one fewer at-bat, then took the mound and absorbed the loss while pitching the final three innings.
William & Mary pushed across a run in the first inning, and College of Charleston countered with a run in the seventh inning. The game’s starting pitchers, Jason Inghram for William & Mary and Taylor Clarke for College of Charleston, combined to throw 151/3 innings, did not walk a batter and struck out 19.
“I’m trying to find a politically correct way to put this, but it was an advantageous strike zone for the pitchers on both sides,” said Murphy, William & Mary’s coach. “We both benefited.”
Over 22 innings, William & Mary pitchers walked six batters and struck out 24. College of Charleston’s four pitchers were even better with their control, walking one batter and striking out 17.
An announced crowd of 409 was there for the 2 p.m. first pitch. Many left as the scoreless innings mounted into the 12th, 14th, 16th and 18th. Other fans got word of the marathon game on campus and in Charleston and began filtering into the stadium.
By game’s end, the crowd was likely about the same size as at the beginning with many different folks in the seats, according to Will Bryan, the game’s official scorekeeper and College of Charleston’s sports information director for baseball.
When the game reached the 18th inning, Bryan had the public address announcer inform the crowd that it was watching the longest game in College of Charleston history and approaching the NCAA record. By then, the crowd also was being entertained by Charleston super fan Marcus Kronick, who sang songs between innings.
The College of Charleston team had become accustomed to lengthy games, albeit never one of this sort, over the past three weeks. The Cougars won extra-inning games against Bethune-Cookman on three consecutive days in late April, then went 12 innings to defeat Coastal Carolina this past Tuesday.
Even so, it was the most unlikely of heroes – Brandon Murray and Eric Bauer – who emerged to help defeat William & Mary.
Murray broke his arm against Towson on April 5 and had been sidelined until participating in three batting practice sessions leading up to the William & Mary game. Although he was cleared by a team athletics trainer to play again, Lee did not like what he saw in those sessions and wanted only to get Murray a pinch-hitting appearance at some point.
By the time the 10th inning rolled around, Murray was the only left fielder available to Lee. He collected four hits in his five at-bats, including a run-scoring single in the bottom of the 20th inning that kept the game alive. His single in the 11th inning would have won the game, but pinch-runner Blake Ross was thrown out at home plate.
Bauer was considered a weekend starter early in the season, but was sidelined for eight weeks with a wrist injury. He had worked his way back to good health, but no one expected the kind of relief appearance the 5-foot-11 left-hander provided in this game.
Bauer worked 10 innings, threw 111 pitches, allowed one run on five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out five.
“It’s one of those things,” Lee said, “when you’re watching something, and you can’t really appreciate it until it’s over, until you have time to let it soak in for a few minutes, or for an hour or two or the next day. Then you start to realize just how impressive it was, what you’d watched maybe a day or two before.”
Lee was speaking of Bauer’s performance, but just as easily could have been talking of an afternoon that those who played in the game or watched from the stands will not soon forget.