Coastal Carolina likes chances of catcher nailing stealers
Run at your own risk against Matt Beaird: Coastal Carolina’s senior catcher has thrown out 22 of 32 would-be base stealers.
That’s nailing runners at a clip of 69 percent. In the majors, the rate is just under 28 percent this season.
“It’s part of doing my job,” Beaird said Monday. “If a guy steals, I should throw him out. That’s as simple as it gets.”
“If your catcher is above 30 percent, you’re pretty happy with it,” said Chanticleers associate head coach Kevin Schnall, who works with the catchers. “Matt’s success this year, I’d say it’s probably the single most unbelievable season I’ve ever seen from a catcher behind the plate.”
Stanford’s Maverick Handley and Baylor’s Shea Langeliers are the only other Division I catchers over 60 percent, and just three others are at 50 percent or better, according to research by Coastal Carolina publicist Mike Cawood. Beaird also has picked off three runners at first base and three at second.
Coastal Carolina (36-16), which failed to make last year’s NCAA Tournament after winning the national championship in 2016, has clinched the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title and is in position to host a regional. Schnall said Beaird’s defensive work is not to be underestimated when looking for reasons for the resurgence.
“I would have to assume every team we’re playing, they’re spending some time in a scouting report meeting discussing Matt and what he’s done and what he’s capable of doing,” Schnall said.
Beaird gives credit to his pitchers for their tempo to the plate and timing of their pickoff moves and to infielders Corey Wood, Keaton Weisz and Seth Lancaster for occasionally scooping balls out of the dirt to put on tags.
“They’ve made some good plays for me,” he said.
Beaird always has had a strong arm, and his “pop time” — the time between the ball arriving in his glove and reaching the man covering second base — has improved to a major-league range of 1.9 to 2.0 seconds.
Beaird tweaked his throwing program last fall to include the pitchers’ tunnel drills to improve his accuracy. Previously, Schnall said, Beaird’s right arm would get away from his body, causing the ball to fade a bit right. The new drills fixed that.
“His release point is just a lot more consistent and you can see he’s getting a truer carry on his ball,” Schnall said. “He’s thrown well the last couple years; just not this well.”
IN THE POLLS
Florida, Oregon State and Stanford are the consensus top three teams in the major polls. The defending national champion Gators (41-12) won two of three over Georgia to clinch at least a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season title for the second straight year and the fifth time in 11 years under coach Kevin O’Sullivan. Oregon State (38-8-1) moved up to No. 2 after taking two of three against Stanford. The Cardinal (39-8) beat the Beavers 9-6 in 10 innings Sunday to avoid getting swept for the first time this season.
SLUG ’EM, COWBOY
Oklahoma State homered seven times in an 11-6 win at Baylor on Saturday. It was the most for the Cowboys since they connected eight times against Kansas in 2006. Trevor Boone went deep a school record-tying three times. The Big 12-leading Cowboys had 11 homers while dropping two of three to the Bears.
Washington (25-21, 15-9 Pac-12) enhanced its position for a spot in the NCAA Tournament with wins in two of three against nationally ranked UCLA. The Huskies won 4-3 in the 11th Sunday on Joe Wainhouse’s 450-foot walk-off homer into Lake Washington. “Right up there as one of my biggest baseball moments ever,” he said. Washington is up to No. 66 in the RPI and has a chance to raise that number with league-leading Stanford visiting in two weeks.
SLIMMEST OF MARGINS
Clemson won its nation-leading and school-record 14th one-run game Sunday when Grayson Byrd led off the 11th inning with a walk-off homer to beat Austin Peay 3-2. San Diego State has 13 one-run wins.
ON THAT LOSING STREAK
As far as the NCAA knows, Saint Peter’s 78-game losing streak was a Division I record. The Peacocks’ misery ended Sunday with a 7-1 victory over Iona. The NCAA doesn’t formally track baseball losing streaks. Jeff Williams, associate director of media coordination and statistics, said the longest one he found in his research was Coppin State’s 55-game skid from 2006-08.