With top spot in the Colonial Athletic Association on the line in Charleston, South Carolina, the nationally ranked Cougars their lead atop the standings following a 13-4 route over UNCW to open a three-game series on Friday night.
Charleston (36-11) improved to 17-2 in the CAA and pushed its lead to two games ahead of the Seahawks (33-13), who dipped to 15-4. UNCW leads third-place Northeastern by four games with five to play as they pursue a top-two seed.
The Seahawks jumped out to an early lead when Luke Dunlap hit a bases clearing three-run triple in the top of the first, but No. 18 College of Charleston erupted for 13 unanswered runs as junior ace Taylor Clarke eclipsed the Cougars single-season strikeout record, fanning 10 on the day.
In the top of the first, a hit-by-pitch, single and Cougar miscue loaded the bases for the Seahawks and Dunlap knocked the extra base hit to left.
After falling behind 3-0, Clarke retired 17 straight hitters, with exclusion to a Charleston error.
The Cougars responded right away with three consecutive singles to get one back and tacked on five more on four hits to seize the lead in the second.
College of Charleston’s top five hitters combined to go 13-for-21 on the night. Leading the way were Ryan Brown and Carl Wise with three hits apiece, while Rob Buttler and Nick Pappas drove in three runs each.
UNCW loaded the bases in the ninth and managed a run on an RBI single by Kennard McDowell, but reliever Will Detwiler forced a groundball for a game-ending 4-6-3 double play. Detwiler went 1.2 innings with just one run after relieving Clarke with one out in the eighth.
Game two of the series is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Saturday