Although it doesn't always work the way they want, college coaches spend their lives trying to couple recruiting and winning. Success in one often leads to success in the other.
Towson State baseball coach Mike Gottlieb has spent the past two weeks savoring winning and chasing the future, but this afternoon, he goes back to coaching. The Tigers will face Mississippi State in the opening round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Northeast Regional tournament at Orono, Maine.
The winning was a surprising three-game sweep of the East Coast Conference tournament and its accompanying NCAA bid. won it, but don't ask me how," Gottlieb says now. As for the recruiting, he sees no secret to it. "You get players with talent and then hope they play as well as they are capable."
Towson State (27-21-1) was the ECC tournament's third seed behind regular-season powers Delaware (33-6) and Rider (30-8-1), and as Gottlieb points out: "Reasonably, our winning the tournament was not expected because we are so young. We have only three seniors -- two pitchers and a backup catcher.
"If I had to choose one word to describe us, I'd say 'clutch.' We always seemed to find a way to make something happen. And when we got the opportunity, we always seemed to take advantage of it."
Mississippi State (40-19) went 2-2 in the Southeast Conference tournament (Florida defeated Louisiana State for the title), and is one of 28 entries in the 48-team field with at least 40 wins. Another 14 won at least 30.
Today's pairings: Clemson (56-8) vs. Princeton, 11 a.m.; Mississippi State vs. Towson State, 3 p.m.; Maine (45-16) vs. Villanova (37-13-1), 7 p.m. The double-elimination program is scheduled to continue through Sunday.
At the ECC tournament, there were four regulars in the batting order who were not there when the season started.
Among them was freshman Alex Yost. He became the designated hitter a month ago, and in the three ECC tournament games, he went 7-for-11 with seven RBI. In the first game, against Delaware, he tied an NCAA record with two home runs in one inning, and in the title game, he tripled home the winning run in the eighth inning.
Another was redshirt freshman catcher Steve Tiller. "We had a talk at the end of fall practice. I told him he was third string at that point, but that he had more ability than that. He needed to improve some things, especially learning the strike zone," Gottlieb said.
"So, this spring, on our southern trip, he got two hits one game, a pinch hit another time. I started platooning him, and finally he earned the job." Tiller's batting average is .303, and he has improved his strike zone to the point where he struck out only nine times in 109 at-bats.