As Coastal Carolina sophomore right-hander Andrew Beckwith talked about keeping wear off the bullpen Saturday by throwing 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball against Texas Southern, he seemed to indicate that freshman righty Bobby Holmes would be the next to try to follow suit.
But he may have just been making the same assumption most outsiders would at this point as the No. 2-seeded Chanticleers moved on in the NCAA Regionals with a 4-1 win over the Tigers and now face another must-win game against either No. 1-seed Texas A&M or No. 3 California at 1 p.m. EST Sunday.
Asked directly in the postgame media session, Chants coach Gary Gilmore didn’t commit to Holmes and left his pitching options open while waiting to see the outcome of the Aggies’ game with the Golden Bears later in the evening.
Either way, he didn’t seem to be stressing over the decision.
“We’ll have to kind of see who we play,” Gilmore said. “I think we’ll be fine. Again, I don’t worry so much about starters as traditional guys. If a guy can get through the order one time and I have to go to another guy, we’ve just grown accustomed to that. It’s where we are. I mean, our two big innings-eater guys are out. That’s what it is.”
With senior lefty Austin Kerr (elbow) unlikely to pitch at all this weekend and sophomore righty Alex Cunningham, the team’s ace for the first half of the season, likely limited to a short relief role if anything while trying to come back from forearm tendinitis, the Chants have no doubt had to get creative on the mound of late.
Beckwith, who picked up the win Saturday while starting with eight scoreless innings before running into trouble in the ninth, was making just his second career start – both in the last two weeks – after serving as one of the Chants’ most dependable relievers most of the last two seasons.
Holmes, who came in for the final two outs to earn his fourth save, is 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA over 23 relief appearances and three starts and would likely be fresh enough to return to the mound after facing only two Texas Southern batters.
Unless Gilmore changes his mind on Cunningham’s availability, the Chants’ other options are down to junior lefty Brock Hunter (4-0, 2.31 ERA), who worked 2/3 of an inning Friday and was effective as a starter in the Big South tournament; freshman righty Zack Hopeck (3-2, 4.91), who hasn’t pitched since the end of the regular-season but made nine starts this year; junior righty Mike Morrison (2-3, 3.60), who threw 2 1/3 innings of relief Friday; or junior righty Tyler Poole (1-1, 4.55), who hasn’t pitched at all since the end of the regular-season
Whoever Gilmore and pitching coach Drew Thomas choose, the Chants no doubt need another impressive outing on the mound as they would have to win two games Sunday and one Monday to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals.
“What [Beckwith] did today was exceptional. It’s what we told everybody last night – we’re going to have to have people step up like that,” Gilmore said. “We’re going to have to have guys pitch bigger than life and play bigger than life if we’ve got any shot of coming back through the loser’s bracket to win this thing.”
Beckwith may stick as a starter
After watching Beckwith suddenly morph into the team’s most dominant starting pitcher this postseason, Gilmore left the door open that he could remain in a starting role heading into next year.
“We’ll see. His summer work will probably determine that more than likely,” Gilmore said. “I know how hard he works, so that will be a challenge put to him. We’ll see how it goes.”
Beckwith opened his Chants career with 54 relief appearances over the last two seasons before making his first start out of pure necessity last week in the Big South semifinals against High Point. He delivered a then-career-high eight innings that game while allowing only two runs to the Panthers in a 9-3 win.
And he was even better Saturday against Texas Southern while throwing 109 pitches and allowing seven hits, a walk, a hit by pitch and tallying five strikeouts in those 8 1/3 innings.
He improved to 6-4 and dropped his earned-run average to 3.26 with the win.
“He’s really evolved into a tremendous pitcher for us,” Gilmore said. “He’s gone from a low 80s guy to when he gets his arm slot up he’ll [hit] 89-90. I look for him a year or two from now to be a 92-93 mile-per-hour guy that’s a power arm and also can throw from the side as well and really be a dominater, have a lot of strikeouts and things.”
Beckwith leads the team with 27 appearances and 66 1/3 innings pitched after leading the Chants last season with 29 appearance and a team-low 1.49 ERA.
For his part, Beckwith said he doesn’t care what his role is going forward as long as he can continue to make an impact.
The Chants’ win Saturday was their first NCAA Regionals victory since defeating Manhattan in 2012 at the Columbia Regional and snapped a string of four straight losses in the regionals. ...
Sophomore G.K. Young was the only Coastal Carolina player with multiple hits Saturday and is now tied for second on the team with 20 multi-hit games this season. Junior Anthony Marks leads with 25 while sophomore Michael Paez also has 20.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or on Twitter @RyanYoungTSN.