Beckwith Delivers the Goods

Blythewood’s Andrew Beckwith and the national championship trophy he helped Coastal Carolina’s baseball squad bring home last week from Omaha.

Blythewood’s Andrew Beckwith and the national championship trophy he helped Coastal Carolina’s baseball squad bring home last week from Omaha.

BLYTHEWOOD (July 7, 2016) – Three years ago, he was on the short end of a two games to one disappointment. This year, they are using words like “Legend.”

And that word is being batted around on a much larger stage than the 2103 Class 4A state baseball championship series.

Andrew Beckwith, the former Blythewood High School Bengal who was tagged for the 4-0 loss to the Lexington Wildcats in the deciding game of the 2013 state title series, went nationwide last week when he delivered a remarkable performance in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Coastal Carolina junior right-hander hurled two complete-game victories in late June, then sealed the deal last Thursday with the championship victory, going 5 2/3 innings in the 4-3 win over a different breed of Wildcats – from the University of Arizona.

Beckwith’s performance – overall, he went 22 2/3 innings, allowing just four runs (only two of which were earned) on 19 hits and four walks with 14 strikeouts – lifted the Chanticleers to their first national title and earned him the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament award.

“This whole experience has been unbelievable,” Beckwith told The Voice this week. “Winning the national title is by far better (than a state title), but you learn a lot from losing. You learn more from losing than winning.”

Although now basking in the glow of a national crown, Beckwith clearly still carries the scars of 2013.

“That was a tough day,” he said of the 2103 finale against the Wildcats he could not tame. “We didn’t play our best ball. We made a lot of errors. And Reagan (Lexington’s Josh Reagan, who went 11-0 in 2013) is a good pitcher.”

Beckwith said he wasn’t the only member of the Chanticleer staff still carrying the weight of a previous letdown.

“A.C. (Alex Cunningham) and I both lost state title games,” Beckwith said. “A.C. lost three in a row (for Byrnes High School). I can’t imagine his relief (now). When I lost one, I was devastated. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to lose three in a row. Both of us have been vindicated.”

Vindicated in a big way, and on the same stage.

Cunningham closed out the Chanticleers’ championship last week, striking out Ryan Haug swinging on a 3-2 pitch that stranded Wildcat runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth. Arizona had already scored once in the inning to close the gap to a single run.

There is also a little irony in Beckwith’s tale.

Although he had thrown two complete-game one-run wins in the tournament, his June 24 win over TCU saw him rack up 137 pitches. The win ran his record to 14-1 (a Coastal Carolina single season best), but also meant that, at best, he would only be available for an inning or two out of the bullpen on June 29.

But then the Baseball Gods delivered an additional day of rest for the sidewinder, pouring rain down on TD Ameritrade Park and postponing the deciding game to the following afternoon.

“I was in the pen Wednesday,” Beckwith said. “Cunningham was going to start. Then we had the rainout and I had an extra day of rest going into Thursday. The coaches were like, ‘just get us to where we need to be’ (for the bullpen to take over).”

Beckwith held Arizona scoreless until the bottom of the sixth when the Wildcats scraped together two unearned runs on a two-out, two-run single by Jared Oliva.

With two runners still on, Coastal brought Bobby Holmes in from the bullpen. Holmes, who had a remarkable tournament of his own (he allowed just four earned runs in 18 2/3 innings), struck out Louis Boyd to end the inning.

Adding to the irony and the legend, Beckwith was passed over by all 30 Major League teams in this year’s player draft. But Beckwith took that in its stride as well.

“I completely understand,” he said. “It’s all about projectability. Obviously, the scouts saw something that I could improve on and I’ve just got to figure out what that is in my senior year. I won’t mind coming back my senior year and playing for coach (Gary) Gilmore. Everything happens for a reason. This year just wasn’t my year.”

If only we could all have such an ‘off year.’

And on top of everything else, Beckwith was not even a starter for the Chanticleers for the majority of the season. He got most of his work out of the pen as a middle reliever – the role he was ultimately supposed to have played in game three.

On June 19, he got the ball against Florida – the number one team in the country. Butterflies, anyone?

“It felt like any other baseball game,” Beckwith said. “All it is is a whole lot more people watching. You just stick with your process, stick with what you do.”

And a lot of what he does, what he did, began in Blythewood.

Former head baseball coach Barry Mizzell and his staff, Beckwith said, instilled the fundamentals – physically and mentally – that translated to Omaha.

“I learned a lot of the mental game at Blythewood,” Beckwith said. “They all (Mizzell and staff) ingrained discipline, having good character and having a positive outlook on life. It has really helped me become a leader, on and off the field.”

After spending a few days in Blythewood last week, Beckwith was back in Conway Tuesday for an instructional youth baseball camp on campus. When that wraps up, the psychology major said he’ll be spending the rest of the summer in Washington, D.C., for an internship. Meanwhile, he is still coping with celebrity.

Beckwith said he and a few teammates stopped in the Eggs Up Grill in Myrtle Beach recently for breakfast.

“We got a standing ovation,” he said. “It was really cool, but you’ve got to stay humble and not let it get to your head.”

 

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