SOCON OPENER

SOCON OPENER

Who: No. 2 College of Charleston vs. No. 7 Georgia Southern

When: 8:30 p.m. tonight

Where: Fluor Field, Greenville

Records: College of Charleston 31-24, 18-11; Georgia Southern 25-30, 13-17

Radio: WTMZ 910-AM

College of Charleston pitcher Jake Zokan is trying to make up for lost time.

Zokan, a senior, missed almost all of his last season with tendinitis in his throwing elbow. The former Spring Valley High School star made just seven appearances for the Cougars a year ago.

This year, Zokan has been able to stay healthy and has proven to be one of the Cougars’ top starters.

The left-handed Zokan will get the start today when the second-seeded Cougars take on Georgia Southern at 8:30 p.m. at Flour Field in Greenville in the opening round of the Southern Conference baseball tournament.

“I’m excited to get the nod for Game 1,” Zokan said. “I’m glad the coaches have the confidence to give me the ball for Game 1. The last couple of years we haven’t done that well in the tournament, so we’re looking to play well and keep the season going.”

For the season, Zokan is 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA, which ranks third in the SoCon. He recorded 70 strikeouts in 72 innings with just 13 walks and had six quality starts.

“Jake has had a solid year, and the main thing for Jake is that he’s been healthy all season,” said College of Charleston coach Monte Lee. “When Jake’s been healthy, he’s been a good pitcher for us during his career.”

Zokan started the season as the Cougars’ No. 2 starter. For the first half of the season, Zokan would start the second game during a conference weekend series on Saturday behind No. 1 starter Matt Pegler. But Pegler struggled in his role as the No. 1 starter and Zokan was moved to Friday nights against Radford. Zokan was 2-1 as the Friday night starter.

“Jake really took advantage of the opportunity when we moved him up to the No. 1 spot,” Lee said.

Zokan’s solid performance as Charleston’s top starter was a major reason why the Cougars again led the SoCon in team ERA (3.99) despite losing four pitchers to the pro ranks off last year’s team. The Cougars’ pitching staff was also first in the SoCon opposing batting average (.260), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.62) and walks allowed (158).

“For us, the tournament is going to come down to pitching,” Lee said. “If we pitch well, we’re going to be fine. As long as we play well defensively and pitch well, I like our chances.”

Pegler, who suffered a hairline fracture in his throwing had this past weekend, is not expected to play in the tournament.

The Cougars are playing their best baseball of the season heading into the tournament. Charleston is riding a season-high five-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep of Georgia Southern this past weekend.

“It’s got to give us some confidence,” Lee said. “We’ve won in a lot of different ways the last five games. We’ve won with defense and pitching and we’ve won scoring a lot of runs. We’re just hoping to take that momentum that we’ve generated over the last week and a half and bring it into the tournament.”

Unfortunately, history is not on the Cougars’ side at Flour Field, where Charleston is 0-4 in the SoCon tournament.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of luck up in Greenville,” Lee said. “We’re hoping that ends this week.”