Senior Tyler Chadwick saw his bat finally cool off a little bit Wednesday night in Coastal Carolina’s win over The Citadel, but he was still feeling a boost from perhaps the best weekend any Chanticleer has put together all season.
And the national recognition that came with it.
After going 7-for-10 at the plate in a three-game sweep of Stetson last weekend with three home runs, 12 RBIs, six runs scored and a 1.333 slugging percentage, Chadwick was named “National Hitter of the Week” by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association along with earning Big South Conference Player of the Week honors.
“I was pretty shocked. We were sitting at practice and [sports information director Mike] Cawood came up and said, ‘You got National Player of the Week.’ I was like, ‘No way, dude,’” Chadwick recalled. “It was pretty honoring. I’m excited about it.”
That surge last week was the result of some adjustments he had made at the plate recently with the help of the Coastal Carolina coaches, and even after an 0-for-3 day in the Chants’ 4-3 win over The Citadel on Wednesday, Chadwick’s batting average is up to .294 now.
The senior first baseman also ranks fourth on the team with four homers and 21 RBIs, and third with a .544 slugging percentage.
“It felt good. We’ve been talking with the coaches about working on the swing a little bit, more about approach and just going back to the approach I had last year – cutting the plate and seeing the ball better – and it felt great to finally get some good swings on the ball again and get back to the way I feel I should be,” he said. “Not 7-for-10 every week, but just getting better swings on the ball.
“None of those times I was trying to hit a home run. It was like the coaches say, getting back to the approach of condensing the zone and looking for certain pitches in certain zones. It really helped.”
So when’s the last time Chadwick recalls a weekend like that in his baseball career?
“When I was like 12 probably and I was still this tall and bigger than everybody else,” he said with a laugh. “Yeah, I think back in little league is probably the last time I ever hit that many home runs in a short time.”
Big conference series on tap
Coastal Carolina has won 10 of its past 12 games heading into a three-game series with Big South foe Gardner-Webb this weekend.
The Chants have their record up to 17-9 with their strong play of late, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs (21-7) come into this series with an even better overall mark. Both teams are 2-1 so far in conference play.
“They’re tied for the most wins in our league so at this point in time today they’re the best team in our league,” Chants coach Gary Gilmore said. “They come into our place with a pitcher of the week from last week starting on Friday so it will be a huge challenge for us to see what we’re made of.”
Gardner-Webb senior right-hander Brad Haymes was named the Big South’s Co-Pitcher of the Week after throwing his third straight complete game in a 14-0 win over Presbyterian, holding the Blue Hose scoreless while striking out a career-high 12 batters.
The Chants, meanwhile, will throw junior right-hander Alex Cunningham (4-1, 5.14 ERA) on Friday followed by sophomore righty Bobby Holmes (2-1, 4.68) on Saturday and senior righty Tyler Poole (4-2, 3.26) on Sunday.
Holmes, who started out the season as the Chants’ closer, is expected to remain in the weekend rotation for the foreseeable future as the coaches try to maximize their options on the mound.
“That’s just where we are until we see if we can shake another guy out of the tree that can help us in spots. Heck, we were using Bobby one time a week and using him to try to get us four or five innings instead of really being a closer,” Gilmore said. “[Mike] Morrison’s emergence as that kind of guy has really allowed us [to mix things up a bit]. I think that’s where Bobby needs to be personally. I think he’s got great closer-type stuff, but he also can be a good Friday night guy for us. [Andrew] Beckwith, [Austin] Kitchen and Morrison give us a three-man bullpen going into a weekend that we can use multiple times and some other guys are stepping up a little here and a little there.”
Being patient with Bilous
When this season began, the hope was that prized freshman righty Jason Bilous would eventually settle into the weekend rotation, but he hasn’t pitched since March 13 .
Gilmore said the coaches have him working on his mechanics while looking for some low-pressure situations to get him into games. Overall, Bilous is 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA, 14 strikeouts and 13 walks in 9 2/3 innings pitched.
“We’re just trying to mechanically get some things straightened out,” Gilmore said. “Like [Wednesday], you get up 4-0, we should have expanded on that and gave him a five, six, seven-run lead and gave him a chance to go out there where walking one guy doesn’t scramble the whole bullpen and stuff. That’s just kind of where we’re at. He’s thrown good the last two times against live hitters and in a bullpen that I watched. It’s just putting him in a situation where he can go out there and breathe and know if he makes one mistake we’re not taking him out of the game.”
▪ Friday’s game was moved up to 2 p.m. by athletic department officials in an effort to get the game in before the threat of inclement weather puts it in question.
▪ National Baseball Hall of Fame member Tony LaRussa will throw out the first pitch of Sunday’s game at Springs Brooks Stadium, the former Major League Baseball manager in the area as part of the Reggie Sanders Foundation’s Legends Never Fade Celebrity softball game. LaRussa managed three teams – the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals – leading Oakland and St. Louis to World Series titles.
By the numbers
▪ As Gilmore mentioned, Morrison has seized the back-of-the-bullpen role for the Chants while pitching dominantly of late.
The senior righty has retired 40 of the last 49 batters he’s faced with 24 strikeouts and has not given up a run in his last nine outings overall spanning 20 1/3 innings with 32 strikeouts in that stretch. His ERA is down to a miniscule 0.71 and opponents are hitting just .138 against him.
▪ Coastal Carolina has won 16 of its 20 meetings with Gardner-Webb. However, the teams have split their past eight games, with the Runnin’ Bulldogs getting the best of the Chanticleers in the last series played between the teams in 2014.
Who | Gardner-Webb at Coastal Carolina
Where | Springs Brooks Stadium, Conway
When | 2 p.m.
Radio | WSEA-FM 100.3