(photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina Athletics)
OMAHA, Neb. – Back when he was a sophomore at Blythewood High School in South Carolina, Andrew Beckwith heeded the advice of his pitching coach: Drop down sidearm, and he might be able to help the varsity. About three weeks before the season started, he tried it and ended up winning two games and earning six saves that season.
Six years later, Coastal Carolina’s junior right-hander turned in a masterpiece performance, dizzying No. 1 national seed Florida with an array of sidearm and over-the-top fastballs, cutters, changes and even a curve ball he had been messing with in the bullpen. His first complete game of his career fueled the Chanticleers to a stirring 2-1 win Sunday night in Game 4 of the College World Series before a crowd of 19,696 at TD Ameritrade Park.
“It’s one of those things where it’s just a different look,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said of the varied looks Beckwith showcased. “There’s no way to simulate it. There’s no one in our league. There’s no one that does it. We tried to do our best preparing our guys. And the thing about it is he’s going to both sides of the plate, and you gotta pick one side or the other.”
Beckwith said he was about 5-6, 140 when Banks Faulkner, his pitching coach, made the suggestion to drop down. The fact that he played second base when not pitching and was used to throwing from the side on double plays made the switch a little easier.
Faulkner initially made the suggestion when Beckwith was a freshman, a freshman with a really good feel for pitching.
“We were really trying to put some bullets in his gun to give him a chance,” said Faulkner, who was watching the game from back in South Carolina. “He deserves all the credit, he’s taken off with it.
“He just neutralized the best team in the country, which is awesome.”
Beckwith (13-1) scattered seven hits – several of which were ground balls that barely eluded Chants infielders early in the game – didn’t walk a batter and struck out seven. His infield defense was busy all night with 15 ground ball outs (two double plays).
“He’s a unique young man to be able to change arm angles and command the way he does,” Chanticleers coach Gary Gilmore said. “We’ve had some true subby guys, but we haven’t had guys be able to move from traditional slot down below and everywhere in between and throw multiple pitches.”
Making matters worse for Florida (52-15) was that Beckwith, almost on a whim, decided to throw a 12-to-6 curve ball that he’d been fiddling with in the bullpen for the first time in the biggest start of his career. He said he threw it four or five times, including getting a strikeout in the middle innings on the pitch.
“I’ve been throwing a cutter all year,” Beckwith said. “I’ve been playing around with a curve ball in the bullpen just because it helps me stay on top of my cutter. So I had a 12-6 working tonight; I don’t know where it came from.”
Gilmore also threw a bit of a curve ball with his starting lineup by starting senior Tyler Chadwick at second base.
Chadwick responded with several plays, including ranging to his left and making a jump-throw to get Reed at first in the third and another nice play when he fed Beckwith on a play at first. Not to be outdone, first baseman Kevin Woodall Jr. ranged far to his right for a backhand in the eighth and made a leaping throw of his own to Beckwith, who jumped and came down at the bag just in time to get Nelson Maldonado at first.
The Chanticleers’ improbable run, from rallying to win the rain-soaked Raleigh Regional to taking two straight at LSU in the Super Regionals, got off to a good start in Omaha.
Zach Remillard (2 for 4, 2 RBI) hit a long fly ball down the right-field line that initially was ruled foul, erasing two runners who would have scored on the play. Upon review – the first review in College World Series history – the ball was ruled to touch the line, and the umpires awarded Coastal Carolina one run on the play.
“They got the call right,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a double.”
Gilmore said about the play, “I honestly really wanted to question why they only allowed one run to score, because we easily score from first base on that play. But I mean, thank goodness we at least have it.”
Jeremy Vasquez pinch hit, and drove in Deacon Liput, who had doubled, for the Gators’ only run in the fifth inning.
Coastal Carolina then retook the lead when Remillard launched a ball deep to the gap in right-center, where Buddy Reed leaped but narrowly missed making the catch before banging into the wall. Remillard ended up with a triple, and Connor Owings, who had drawn a walk from Logan Shore (12-1), scored on the play.
The Gators, who face elimination Tuesday against Texas Tech, managed only one hit the final four innings, but Reed was erased on a 1-6-4-3 double play. Beckwith did the rest, finishing with 98 pitches, 71 for strikes.
“I’m a contact pitcher, and I really do trust my defense,” he said.
Coastal Carolina moves on to meet TCU in a winners’ bracket affair Tuesday night having knocked off NC State of the ACC and now SEC powers LSU and Florida.
“This group, I just keep telling them we’re playing people that are better than them, and they keep proving me wrong,” Gilmore said.
Beckwith added, “A lot of confidence. When you take two at the Box, you can’t be much more confident. But we still have to stay level-headed for each game at hand.”