Junior right-hander Andrew Beckwith has spent most of this spring making things easy for Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore and pitching coach Drew Thomas.
In a jam at a pivotal point of the game? Let Beckwith take care it. Need a reliever to come in and throw six innings out of the bullpen? Beckwith will handle it.
Well, the versatile veteran did much of the same Monday, moving into a starting role on short notice and pitching seven scoreless innings to lead the No. 19-ranked Chanticleers to a 4-0 win over High Point before a crowd of 1,221 at Springs Brooks Stadium.
But in so doing he’s also given the coaches a dilemma of sorts.
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“The guy is just a machine,” Gilmore said. “He just throws a ton of strikes, multiple pitches, locates. He’s tough to not want to start, to be honest with you. It just takes a huge part out of the bullpen if you do, but he was outstanding today.”
Beckwith allowed just four hits and no walks while matching a career-high with seven strikeouts in his seven innings of work as the Chants (31-11, 13-2 Big South) claimed a series victory over the Panthers (26-15, 9-6).
The junior has not allowed an earned run in his last 33 innings spanning 10 appearances now and is 6-0 with a save in that stretch. He’s allowed only four unearned runs in that span while posting a 26-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and lowering his overall earned-run average to 1.57.
He got the nod Monday as a fill-in for senior starter Tyler Poole, who is out indefinitely with a back injury, and now the coaches have to decide if he’s better utilized as a stabilizing force in the starting rotation or continuing as a top option out of the bullpen in high-leverage situations?
“I don’t know,” Gilmore said. “The length of Poole’s injury and departure may have some effect on that and being able to figure out how to coordinate the other parts of the bullpen. We’ve got to be able to bridge some gaps here and there.”
High Point had a runner on second with one out in the top of the second, but Beckwith retired the next two batters to keep the game scoreless before the Coastal Carolina bats broke through in the bottom half of the inning.
Connor Owings took care of that with a solo home run into the right field bullpen for his team-leading 11th homer of the season and his eighth in the last 14 games.
The Chants gained some more separation in the fourth with a two-out rally as Zach Remillard singled and Owings and Tyler Chadwick walked to load the bases. Billy Cooke then delivered in the clutch, sending a 2-2 pitch up the middle for a two-run single to make it 3-0.
“It was a big at-bat. I got two sliders to start off and I whiffed at both them, and I was just looking for something to hit and luckily I got a pitch to hit – fastball down the middle,” Cooke said.
And in the fifth it was Beckwith’s turn again.
Carson Jackson was hit by a pitch to start the inning, Austen Zente soon followed with a one-out infield single and Tim Mansfield reached on an error as shortstop Michael Paez was shielded by the runner and left with little time to react to a hard grounder. That loaded the bases with one out, but Beckwith came right back with a strikeout of JJ Woodard and got Hunter Lee to fly out to center to end the threat.
We basically told him last night that we were going to go one of three ways and for him to be ready to go. He’s that guy, he’s always ready so I could have told him 30 minutes before we started and he would have been ready to roll.
CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore, on pitcher Andrew Beckwith
In the sixth he gave up a two-out double to Dominic Fazio and a single to Jackson to put runners on first and third, but again he got out of it while inducing Drew Fopeano into an easy groundout to Paez up the middle.
“It’s just picking each other up,” Beckwith said. “It’s 1-0 and 3-0 and our offense is trying to get going, and I’ve just got to get a hold to get us in the dugout and let us score some more runs.”
The Chants did plate one more run, getting an RBI single from Seth Lancaster in the bottom of the sixth to cap the scoring.
After scoring 17 runs the day before, the Coastal Carolina offense did enough Monday, especially with Beckwith on the mound.
It was the fourth career start for the righty, who made two starts at the end of last season in the Big South tournament and NCAA regional and one earlier this season against UNC Greensboro.
He wasn’t given much time to prepare for the change in role, but the coaches knew that wouldn’t matter much.
After all, it was just last Wednesday against College of Charleston that Beckwith came out of the pen to throw a then-season-high six innings and earn the win.
“We basically told him last night that we were going to go one of three ways and for him to be ready to go,” Gilmore said. “He’s that guy, he’s always ready so I could have told him 30 minutes before we started and he would have been ready to roll.”
Beckwith said he had been playfully pestering Thomas to give him the start, but asked if he was trying to prove Monday that he might belong in that role moving forward, he offered no preference.
“We just needed to get a win today, championship Sunday,” he said of the series finale, which had originally been scheduled for Sunday. “Coaches trust me and we got our full pen, we got [Austin Kitchen] and Mike [Morrison] back, we’ve just got to win that game so I [thought] I could help do that for us.”
NOTES: Morrison closed out the win with a scoreless ninth inning to match Beckwith as he too has now gone 33 innings without allowing an earned run. He has 49 strikeouts and nine walks while giving up just one unearned run in that span. ...
The Chants moved up in the national polls this week, jumping six spots to No. 19 in the Baseball America poll and climbing as high as No. 13 in two polls (Collegiate Baseball and PerfectGame.org).
Gilmore said he’s not paying any attention to such things at this point, though.
“I tell you what, I watch people that get caught up in that mess and that RPI crap and everything else and it ends up, you start playing the game for the wrong reasons,” he said. “We just have to keep playing and grinding out wins, and if we win enough games between now and the end, it will take care of itself. I’m not worried about that.”
Coastal Carolina in the National Polls
Collegiate Baseball: No. 13
PerfectGame.org: No. 13
D1Baseball.com: No. 15
USA TODAY/Coaches: No. 15
Baseball America: No. 19
NCBWA: No. 22