With 20 games to go in the regular season, Winthrop's begun thinking about its chances for the NCAA tournament.
At 15-21 (5-4 Big South Conference), the thoughts can be compressed to one word.
"We win the rest of the games, I figure we're probably about to win the tournament, too, and that'd put us there anyway," freshman Robert Lake said. "We've got a pretty good ballclub right here, but we've been playing some of the top teams in the nation. Just a matter of time to when it all comes together."
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A chance for an at-large berth, thus negating the win-or-go-home philosophy of the BSC tournament, is still faintly glimmering. For the Eagles to brighten it, they have no choice but to win out, or at least come pretty close to it.
A 20-game win streak would push the Eagles to 35-21 and most likely claim the Big South regular-season championship, assuming VMI and No. 22 Coastal Carolina lose a few more conference games. Their RPI, sitting at 97 on Thursday, would shoot upwards because the streak would include wins over Charlotte (61), The Citadel (84), Elon (41) and four over Lipscomb (107), not to mention North Carolina (3), also ranked fourth in the Top 25.
A lengthy winning streak, a conference title, those numbers and perhaps a couple of wins in the BSC tournament might impress the NCAA selection committee enough for it to give Winthrop a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in a regional. Maybe not as desirable as the No. 2 seed the Eagles received in 2006, but they'd be in.
Embarking on a winning streak is the next step. The Eagles ride to Charleston Southern (sharing the BSC cellar with Radford and UNC Asheville at 2-7) for a three-game series starting today and then look at an intriguing possibility.
A sweep this weekend makes Winthrop 15-7 since that disastrous 3-14 start and returns the Eagles to Rock Hill, facing a 13-game homestand. The opportunity is there.
"I think realistically we'd have to go about 17-3 to get our RPI up to where it merits some consideration," coach Joe Hudak said. "At this stage I think that's a highly unlikely scenario, but it's certainly one that's still mathematically possible, and I'm going to play that way until I'm fairly convinced in my own mind we have no chance of getting an at-large.
"We're certainly capable of doing that."
The Eagles insist there's been no change in the clubhouse chemistry, even after an early nine-game losing streak led to the start. There's still looseness around the practice field -- players and Hudak said the team's mood is the same as when it first took the field on Feb. 23.
WINTHROP (15-21, 5-4 BIG SOUTH) AT CHARLESTON SOUTHERN (13-23, 2-7)
• When: 2 p.m. today, 11 a.m. Saturday (DH)
• Where: Buccaneer Field, Charleston
• Tickets: Available at the box office
• On the Web: Live stats available at csusports.com
• On deck: Winthrop hosts Elon at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
SENIOR RHP JOSH MCDONALD
McDonald is 2-4 with three saves and a 3.18 ERA.
Did you know?
McDonald, along with the rest of the team, is a big fan of the video game "Rock Band." McDonald estimates his best performance was playing guitar on Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive."