When the coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 Division II baseball season, the University of Charleston baseball team was on pace for another stellar season after winning the Mountain East Conference (MEC) in the 2019 season.
While Charleston was unable to replicate its conference success in 2021, not bringing home a conference title for the first time since 2017, the Golden Eagles put together a 31-11 (24-4 MEC) season and earned the opportunity to host the 2021 NCAA Division II Atlantic Regionals at the Welch Athletic Complex.
As the fifth and final seed in the Atlantic Region, the second MEC team behind league champion West Virginia State, Charleston will play the first game of the long weekend against Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) opponent Bloomsburg — the number four seed.
With an 11 a.m. first pitch Thursday, the winner of Charleston and Bloomsburg is will play No. 1-seeded PSAC opponent Seton Hill in the third game of the regional at 7 p.m. Thursday. However, even with a loss against Bloomsburg or Seton Hill, Charleston would not be eliminated from the double-elimination tournament. If Charleston were to lose to Bloomsburg, it would play the loser of Millersville and West Virginia State at 11 a.m. Friday.
As the lowest seed in the region, the odds might appear to be stacked against Charleston. But it hasn’t been smart to bet against Charleston at home this season. While on the road or at neutral-site contests, Charleston went 10-8 in 2021. At home? 21-3.
Despite not having played any of the three PSAC teams this season and having its only series against West Virginia State canceled, Charleston appears to be in a good position to make a run at the Atlantic region this year. Even if the Golden Eagles ended the season on an 0-5 skid.
2021 has been an unprecedented season for every college team, and Charleston is no exception. Even with the difficulties and changes caused by COVID-19, the Golden Eagles’ 31 wins rank as the fourth most wins in team history — falling behind only the 2019, 2018 and 2017 teams.
A number of talented under- and upper-classmen made it all possible for second-year head coach Robbie Britt and Charleston this season. Senior pitcher Logan Campbell was named MEC Pitcher of the Year and freshman infielder Mitchell Vincent was named MEC Freshman of the Year. Additionally, the Golden Eagles had five first-team All-MEC players (catcher Drew Hefner, outfielder Hayden Cartt, outfielder Colby Johnson, pitcher Colt Webb and Campbell), three second-team All-MEC players (second baseman Bryce Toussiant and pitcher Austin Heinrich) and three honorable mentions (first baseman Tyler Dellerman, shortstop Braxton Boddorf and pitcher Seth Nightingale). Campbell and Cartt also earned second-team All-Atlantic Region honors.
With 91 strikeouts this season, Campbell set the Charleston single-season strikeout record, breaking Heinrich’s single-season record of 87 strikeouts in 2019. Campbell led the Charleston pitching staff with a 3.26 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 58 innings while going 9-1 in 11 starts. A staff ERA of 3.93 ranks second-best in the MEC behind only West Virginia State.
Webb and Sykes (along with graduate pitcher Robert Fultineer and freshman Dane Sykes) pitched below a 4.00 ERA in at least 11 appearances and Nightingale’s 4.15 ERA in 14 appearances wasn’t far behind.
While the Charleston offense, led by Cartt, Mitchell and Vincent, was not a huge power threat (ranking in the bottom third in the MEC in home runs), it was strong and efficient. A team batting average of .325 led the MEC and its slugging percentage (.492), triples (17) and stolen bases (109-of-134) also led the conference.
Cartt led the way with a .372 batting average while slugging eight home runs and 35 runs batted in. Dellerman, Boddorf and Toussaint each batted over .350 while notching at least 40 hits and 10 doubles. Johnson led the team with 30 stolen bases in 33 attempts.
A veteran team with experience across all facets of the team, Charleston will not be an easy out for any of the Atlantic Region teams. With as much veteran leadership, balanced hitting and a talented pitching staff, the Golden Eagles could be the sleeper pick to make it out of the region.