The Roost

Holmes moving into rotation for CCU, Cunningham set to return

The Coastal Carolina baseball team has made a couple of significant moves within its pitching staff entering a pivotal series with Liberty this weekend.

The Chanticleers (32-15, 14-4 Big South) are moving freshman standout Bobby Holmes from the bullpen into the weekend rotation. The impressive right-hander from Athens, Ga., will take over as the team’s Saturday starter with senior lefty Austin Kerr going on Friday night and freshman lefty Shane Sawczak remaining in the Sunday role for now.

Holmes, who was named the Big South Pitcher of the Week on Monday, is coming off his best outing yet after throwing six hitless and scoreless innings in relief in a win over a top-10-ranked Florida State team last Sunday in Tallahassee, Fla.

Overall, he’s 4-0 with a 1.22 earned-run average and a 45-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44 1/3 innings.

“First, I was a little bit surprised,” Holmes said of the promotion. “I try not to think too much into it. I just try to go out there like it’s the end of the game, but I’m just throwing the start of the game. I try to keep the same mindset.”

Holmes’ poise has been one of his defining characteristics and Chants pitching coach Drew Thomas said the timing is just right to make this move.

“It just makes more sense for what we need,” Thomas said. “He has proved that he’s ready to handle that situation. I wouldn’t say that he was ready when we started the season, but he’s really progressed in the mental capacity that I think he can handle it.”

Head coach Gary Gilmore has offered high praise for Holmes throughout the season and has projected him as a future ace for the Chants. And seeing what he did against Florida State in an extended outing convinced Gilmore that they needed to maximize his potential contributions in a bigger role now.

“He’s pitched well and I thought the way he pitched at Florida State the other day, he earned that,” Gilmore said. “Having that guy being able to go six or seven innings with his stuff is huge. We’ve been fighting that all year – especially when you take [Alex] Cunningham out of the mix, it’s been a huge fight for us. When you have him over there with the chance to just throw one inning or two seemed kind of ludicrous. We went to him early at Florida State and the kid answered the call and was very, very good.”

The other big news for the Chants, meanwhile, involves Cunningham, their injured ace pitcher.

After missing his last two starts with arm soreness, the sophomore right-hander will be eased back into action this weekend, Gilmore said.

Cunningham is 6-0 with a 2.64 ERA over 58 innings this spring.

“I don’t know what the role will be. Obviously he’s not going to walk out there as a starter and try to throw 100 pitches or something,” Gilmore said. “I think we’ll have to be very wary of how far we push him the first time out. I’m hoping we can get 30, maybe 40 pitches out of him. We’ll see.”

Said Thomas: “He threw a bullpen [Tuesday]. It went well, no pain so he should be OK.”

Thomas added that the hope remains to get Cunningham back in the starting rotation at some point if his arm responds well.

“I think we’ll just give him about 40 pitches this weekend and see how it goes and then kind of roll from there,” he said. “But I don’t think he’ll be in the pen the rest of the year. I hope not.”

Holmes’ move to the rotation, meanwhile, pushes junior righty Mike Morrison (2-2, 3.95 ERA) back into the bullpen.

The Chants are set to open their three-game series with Liberty (30-17, 14-4) on Friday night at 6 at Springs Brooks Stadium if the weather cooperates.

Coastal Carolina, Liberty and Radford are locked in a three-way tie atop the Big South standings entering the weekend.

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