It’s easy to get overshadowed on a team stocked with the conference’s top four power hitters and a couple of star pitchers with eye-popping stats of their own.
Most other seasons Tyler Chadwick and his seven home runs and 41 RBIs might be more in the spotlight for the Coastal Carolina baseball team, but he has been just fine playing his role for the Chanticleers – whichever one that may be at a given time.
After initially joining the program as a second baseman, Chadwick was thrust into the full-time role of catcher two seasons ago despite never really playing the position before then. When he was no longer needed there, his bat kept him in the lineup and he has since settled in as the No. 19-ranked Chants’ ever-steady first baseman.
“They were like, ‘If you hit, you’re going to play. We’ll find a spot for you to play, whether it’s first base, second base, wherever it’s going to be,’” Chadwick said. “I kind of took that to heart. I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to have good at-bats and work on defense while I’m doing it.’ ... That’s the key attitude – you hit, you play. That’s kind of how my whole career’s kind of been.”
But not only has Chadwick continued to contribute with his bat, he’s built up quite a highlight reel of stretches and scoops at first base during his senior season.
He’s just been a coach’s coach. He studies the game. He’s a talented player, but not your most talented player. He has to think the game and understand the game and use his ability to evaluate the situations. He’s one of my favorite guys, for me, in key situations where we need to move the ball, or there’s a guy at third and less than two outs or we need a key RBI, he’s been that guy for quite a while.
CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore
The second day of the Big South tournament Wednesday was as good an example as any. With the game tied in the sixth inning and runners on first and second for Gardner-Webb, pitcher Andrew Beckwith induced a timely grounder to shortstop Michael Paez, who fielded it and flipped to second baseman Seth Lancaster to turn the inning-ending double play. His throw to first was in the dirt and up the line, but Chadwick made an impressive lunging scoop to his right to seal the final out of the inning.
The very next inning Chadwick showed off more of his defensive repertoire, making a full extension stretch on a throw from short as the ball just beat the runner for the out.
The senior first baseman has made those plays seem routine by now, though.
“It gives us so much confidence knowing that if we make a good play and throw it a little low, he can get our back,” Paez said. “We talk about picking each other up, that’s one of the biggest ways of picking each other up.”
“You have no idea,” third baseman Zach Remillard said. “We came in the program and never had a real tall guy over there so we were always taught to aim the ball low, and he knew he had that little bit of an odd height for playing first base and that’s why he just mastered the art of picking the baseball out of the dirt. And I wouldn’t honestly rather have anybody else over there because you can throw the ball halfway there, wherever and he’s going to dig it out for you.”
At 5-foot-9 Chadwick is indeed not a prototypical first baseman, nor was he a natural catcher, but he has put together an accomplished collegiate career nonetheless with a .296 batting average over 564 at-bats the last four seasons, 13 home runs, 32 doubles, three triples and 115 RBIs.
He was a shortstop, third baseman and pitcher at Marvin Ridge High School in Waxhaw, N.C., but got his first chance to establish himself with the Chants as a first baseman late in his freshman season. He made 12 starts there and posted a .333 batting average.
His chance at regular playing time as a sophomore, though, meant learning how to catch – on the fly.
“I was playing infield my sophomore year and we had three catchers in front of me so there wasn’t even a thought about catching,” he recalled. “We had one kid fail a drug test so he was out for the year. So I worked in a little bit, and in the intrasquads Holden Cammack tore his Tommy John so at that point they [said], ‘You’re a full-time catcher.’ So me and John McNulty switched off a little bit and he ended up tearing his labrum like game 10, and from that point on, ‘It’s all you. Good luck.’”
Out of necessity Chadwick caught 290 2/3 of Coastal Carolina’s final 302 2/3 innings during that 2014 season, making 42 starts behind the plate overall. He finished second on the team with a .299 batting average and third with 32 RBIs.
“I caught a little bit my freshman year, just bullpens and stuff, but I had never caught before coming into that, and at the Division I baseball level the game really sped up,” he said. “I just tried to keep everything in front of me and tried to do the best I could. If you’re going to be a top-20 program and compete for championships you have to have a good catcher, and I don’t necessarily think I was a good one but I tried.”
His efforts were appreciated, but his spot in the lineup wasn’t necessarily guaranteed the next season as the Chants had a few catchers coming in and weren’t sure where Chadwick fit into the puzzle.
He hit his way into the lineup, though, batting .303 with five homers, 13 doubles and 35 RBIs last spring while starting 55 games at first base and finally finding his place on the diamond with the Chants.
“He’s just been a coach’s coach. He studies the game. He’s a talented player, but not your most talented player. He has to think the game and understand the game and use his ability to evaluate the situations,” Chants coach Gary Gilmore said. “He’s one of my favorite guys, for me, in key situations where we need to move the ball, or there’s a guy at third and less than two outs or we need a key RBI, he’s been that guy for quite a while.
“And the one thing with him, he’s so selfless, he shares everything with everybody. He teaches the other guys how to read pitchers, how to steal signs. He’s like having an extra coach on the field.”
Chadwick made the most of his senior day last Saturday, clubbing his seventh home run of the season in the Chants’ 23-4 win over Campbell before later getting pulled out of the field in the middle of an inning so the home fans could cheer him at least once more.
But he and the rest of the seniors are hoping that wasn’t their final home game as Coastal Carolina hopes to be selected to host an NCAA regional next week and continue a special season where it all began.
Either way, this group has established itself as one of the more entertaining teams in recent program history.
“It’s just been great to see how this team’s come together, and we’re led by some great guys in CO (Connor Owings) and Z (Remillard), guys who have had phenomenal seasons, breakout seasons that have just carried us to another level,” Chadwick said.
Not to mention the rest of the supporting cast that has done pretty well in its own right.