Coastal Carolina

Schroeder, Cunningham and Kerr hoping to return from injury for CCU

Coastal Carolina catcher Casey Schroeder makes a diving attempt at a foul ball.
Coastal Carolina catcher Casey Schroeder makes a diving attempt at a foul ball. cslate@thesunnews.com

Coastal Carolina catcher Casey Schroeder is holding out hope that he might be able to return to the lineup this weekend for the Chanticleers’ NCAA Regional in College Station, Texas.

But that remains far from a sure thing. The power-hitting junior sat out the Big South championship game Saturday after having a rib injury cause muscle strains in his back.

“I feel a little bit better than I did Saturday. I’m still having pain. We’re taking it day-by-day, but I just started the medication yesterday so give it a couple days to kick in and hopefully [it makes a difference],” Schroeder said Monday.

“I’m hopeful, but I don’t know anything for sure. We’re still taking it day by-day right now. … But I’m hoping to be able to play this weekend.”

The Chants (38-19) play Friday at 1 p.m. as a No. 2 seed opening against No. 3 California in the four-team double-elimination NCAA Regional at Texas A&M.

Schroeder leads the team with 13 home runs and has started 53 games this season as Coastal Carolina’s only experienced option at catcher. Freshman Matt Beaird replaced him in the lineup Saturday against Radford and went 1-for-3 with an RBI single in just his fourth start of the season, but he is hitting only .154 overall.

Chants coach Gary Gilmore wasn’t ready to say he is confident Schroeder will be able to return behind the plate this weekend.

“He’s probably the toughest kid on our team and he’s really, really sore right now. If we played today, he couldn’t play,” Gilmore said. “That part’s very, very frustrating, but we just have to prepare for what we can.”

Schroeder said the injury happened while sliding into second base after hitting a double in the Big South semifinals Friday against High Point.

“I think when I slid into second base, one of my ribs came out and it strained all the muscles in my back,” he explained. “I got it put back in by a chiropractor and saw a doctor [Sunday] and he just said that I have some inflammation, some swelling and he put me on an anti-inflammatory and I’m in there every day getting treatment. We’re trying to [fix it] by the end of the week.”

The Chants’ other two injured difference-makers, sophomore right-handed pitcher Alex Cunningham (forearm) and senior lefty Austin Kerr (elbow) both said they hope to return in some capacity this week.

Cunningham (6-0, 2.56 earned-run average) and Kerr (8-1, 3.36) have been the team’s top two starting pitchers this year, but Gilmore isn’t ready to plan on their availability just yet.

“If one or both of them were to say they’re able to throw, that would be awesome, but at this point in time as a staff we can’t prepare for that,” he said. “They’ve both been out so long, they’re going to have to throw a bullpen to get the feel for pitching again and we’ll see how they react after that. But I have no feel.

“I’m more worried about Casey than I am about them right now because it’s a completely different animal for us if I have to replace him at this time. We’ve been playing without those other guys, and I don’t think either of them could start regardless. It would be [limited a relief role]. I’d jump right out of plane to get them, but I honestly don’t know. I want them to be able to, but until they do it one time [it’s an unknown]. … I would assume we’ll know something here [Tuesday] or the next day.”

Cunningham has only thrown 1 2/3 innings since May 9 while dealing with tendinitis near the top of his forearm and is expected to throw a bullpen session Tuesday at “probably 60-70 percent,” he said.

There is no new structural damage to his arm, so he’s hoping he can pitch through it.

“Really the main thing is just the rest in between the innings that I throw,” he said. “My last outing I had no problem throwing the first inning. I went out and my [velocity] was the same. It was just the rest – when I came in the dugout and sat down, it kind of stiffened up, so I’m going to throw that pen [Tuesday] and see how it feels.

“And if nothing else I can be a one-inning guy for this weekend. Whatever I can do to help the team. If my arm’s feeling good, I’ll definitely go more than one.”

Kerr, meanwhile, hasn’t pitched since May 8 due to a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. He plans to have Tommy John surgery after the season, but in the short term, he says he’s been given medical clearance to try to pitch through it.

“I’ve been throwing a little bit. I’ll be having surgery after the season, but during the week and for the rest of the season I’m going to pitch through it as much as I can to a certain extent and try to help the team out,” Kerr said.

“… The doctor told me that I can go out and pitch and it’s nothing that I will hurt any more because it’s already torn. So it’s nothing that will damage my future. He told me that if I can handle it, I can do it.”

He said he expects to be able to throw all of his pitches, albeit with less velocity on his fastball. But as a crafty lefty, he reiterated that velocity is not his game anyway.

He has yet to throw off a mound, though, so as Gilmore said, there is no guarantee he’ll be able to ready himself for a relief role this weekend.

“I will do everything I can to pitch this weekend. I can’t make any promises, but I can tell you that I will do anything to throw so it’s just something I’m going to have to push through,” Kerr said. “And I’ll be fine pushing through it.”

Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or on Twitter @RyanYoungTSN.

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