Fin­ish­ing on top

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Andy States as­tates@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @cfh­philly

It’s Sept. 16, 2005 and I’m stand­ing on the vis­i­tors’ side­line at Calvert High School be­fore the Cava­liers’ foot­ball game with the Lackey Chargers.

As the teams head off the field fol­low­ing warmups in the mo­ments be­fore kick­off, I’m left with a kid I had cov­ered a cou­ple months prior in a District 7 11-year-old base­ball cham­pi­onship game. Lackey’s foot­ball team was com­ing off two con­sec­u­tive state run­ner-up fin­ishes but had grad­u­ated a fair amount of tal­ent from the pre­vi­ous year, so, know­ing he was at the pre­vi­ous week’s game — I had cov­ered West­lake’s 42-6 win over North­ern in Week 1 — I asked him how the Chargers looked in their sea­son opener, a 26-12 win over Patux­ent.

“Well, dur­ing the game I thought we looked pretty good,” the 11-year-old replied, be­fore paus­ing, shoot­ing me a side­ways glance and fin­ish­ing, “but then I watched the tape.”

Ugly as the sea­son start may have been per­ceived by the team’s youth­ful critic, Lackey de­feated Calvert 32-14 on that Week 2 night be­hind a 200-plus-yard rush­ing per­for­mance by Michael John­son. The team dropped its next two games, but then fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son on a six-game win streak and ul­ti­mately reached the Class 3A South cham­pi­onship game be­fore los­ing to even­tual state cham­pion Gwynn Park of Prince Ge­orge’s County. It was to be the fi­nal sea­son at Lackey for then-head coach Scott Chad­wick, who moved to Ge­or­gia and later North Carolina.

The kid on the side­lines that night at Calvert was his old­est son, Tyler. A few years later, Tyler started at quar­ter­back for three years for his fa­ther at Marvin Ridge High in North Carolina. He threw for 5,670 yards and 50 touch­downs and the team logged a 24-4 reg­u­lar sea­son record in his starts. He eclipsed the 5,000-yard pass­ing plateau on a com­ple­tion to his brother, Cody.

And last week, on June 30 to be pre­cise, Tyler cel­e­brated an NCAA na­tional cham­pi­onship as a mem­ber of Coastal Carolina Univer­sity’s base­ball team. He started at sec­ond base dur­ing the Col­lege World Se­ries in Omaha and hit safely in 6 of the Chan­ti­cleers’ 8 games in Omaha. He went 9 for 29 with a home run, 3 runs scored and 2 RBIs over the fi­nal eight games.

Against Ari­zona in the fi­nal game of the cham­pi­onship se­ries, the Chan­ti­cleers fought off a late Wild­cats rally to nail down the 4-3 win and the school’s first na­tional cham­pi­onship. With the ty­ing run on first with two outs in the bot­tom of the ninth in­ning, Ari­zona’s Ryan Aguilar hit a dou­ble to left field that Coastal left fielder An­thony Marks got back to the in­field quickly to keep the ty­ing run at third base. Then, with the po­ten­tial win­ning run for Ari­zona at sec­ond base, pitcher Alex Cun­ning­ham ran a full count on the next bat­ter be­fore seal­ing the win with a strike­out.

“The last in­ning was pretty in­tense,” Chad­wick said on Tues­day night, re­flect­ing on the fi­nal se­quence. “We got the first out and then there was a walk, an­other out and a dou­ble. It was a pretty in­tense last in­ning. Marks get­ting that ball in on the dou­ble was prob­a­bly one of the big­gest plays of the year.

“AC is a great pitcher. Sec­ond and third with two outs, I trust him there more than most peo­ple. He likes to make things in­ter­est­ing, so he got to a 3 [-ball]-2 [strike] count. When he struck him out there were just so many emo­tions. The four years of be­ing here, all the hard work that you’ve put in and the ups and downs through­out the four years. When he struck him out it was one of those mo­ments where all those things kind of run through your head. You’re kind of just mo­tion­less. I couldn’t even re­ally move. But then I kind of snapped to it and went and got in the dog pile. It was just an un­be­liev­able feel­ing.”

Dur­ing his time with the pro­gram, Chad­wick had seen just about ev­ery­thing, from the na­tional cham­pi­onship con­clu­sion to his ca­reer to a sub-.500 sea­son his sopho­more year. En­ter­ing this sea­son, the team knew it had an op­por­tu­nity to be good, though the thoughts of end­ing the sea­son with a win in the fi­nal game were not ex­actly at the front of any­body’s mind.

“When the [Ma­jor League Base­ball] draft con­cluded last year we re­al­ized that we were go­ing to get just about ev­ery­one back,” Chad­wick said. “We lost like two key con­trib­u­tors last year, one was our catcher and one was a start­ing pitcher. But we knew we had the ma­jor­ity of our team back. As soon as the draft was over and we re­al­ized that we knew that ex­pec­ta­tions were go­ing to be pretty high. We knew we were get­ting a few good fresh­men, so we knew they were go­ing to be high.

“Our whole goal was to get to Omaha. We wanted to get there, to get [head coach Gary Gil­more] there for the first time in his ca­reer. A na­tional cham­pi­onship was kind of an af­ter­thought. But def­i­nitely go­ing into it we knew we had a re­ally good team. We just didn’t know we were go­ing to do some­thing that spe­cial.”

An ar­du­ous road

The Chan­ti­cleers’ road to the ti­tle was ar­du­ous, as they had to go on the road to N.C. State in the re­gion­als, then on to LSU to play the Tigers in ar­guably col­lege base­ball’s most in­tense en­vi­ron­ment. In Omaha, Coastal started with a 2-1 win over Florida, which had been ranked No. 1 for much of the sea­son, be­fore play­ing TCU and Texas Tech. Coastal played through all of the ad­ver­sity, through sev­eral elim­i­na­tion con­tests to earn its cham­pi­onship.

“I think it was just such a se­nior-led team and we’d kind of been through ev­ery­thing,” Chad­wick said. “We’d all been on the team fresh­man year that played in a re­gional. We were on a team that was one of the worst teams in school his­tory my sopho­more year. Then my ju­nior year we again went to the re­gional on the road, at [Texas] A&M, which is one of the cra­zi­est at­mos­pheres to play in in col­lege base­ball. We’ve been through it all.

“At that point [this year], go­ing to all those places, noth­ing fazed us. At the end of the day we all kind of bought into the fact that we were go­ing to play each day for what it is. We were go­ing to trust the process of it all and never get too emo­tion­ally high or too emo­tion­ally low. I think that kind of showed. Not many teams can func­tion at a high level at LSU, in a tie game in the ninth in­ning or bases loaded with no outs, which we had mul­ti­ple times. If you watch the play­ers on the field or in the dugout, noth­ing re­ally fazed us. That’s just a tes­ta­ment to the se­nior lead­er­ship we had and just the fact that we took each mo­ment for what it was.”

Adding to the ad­ver­sity on a per­sonal level, Chad­wick suf­fered a torn oblique dur­ing bat­ting prac­tice be­fore the Big South Con­fer­ence tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship game, ren­der­ing him ba­si­cally a spec­ta­tor dur­ing the early por­tion of the NCAA tour­na­ment. But when a need arose, sim­i­lar to his sopho­more year when he stepped in to play catcher when the team needed it, Chad­wick an­swered the call.

“It was re­ally, re­ally tough,” he said of the in­jury. “At N.C. State I couldn’t even take BP. I didn’t play much there. At LSU I only played one game and pinch-hit. But in those 2 1/2 weeks I kind of fig­ured out ways to swing with­out it hurt­ing as bad. That, cou­pled with some of the medicine they gave me, it started to be­come where it was very tol­er­a­ble.”

The cel­e­bra­tory scrum on the field in Omaha is likely the last act in Chad­wick’s base­ball play­ing ca­reer, as he was not se­lected in this year’s MLB draft. Chad­wick, who is listed at 5 feet 9 inches, played pri­mar­ily first base dur­ing his col­lege ca­reer and, sim­i­lar to high school quar­ter­backs look­ing for col­lege op­por­tu­ni­ties, there isn’t much of a mar­ket in pro­fes­sional base­ball for 5-9 first base­men. He did re­ceive some calls from a few in­de­pen­dent league teams, he said, but his mind is now on other things. Turns out the kid who watched game film has an itch to coach foot­ball him­self, and the op­por­tu­nity he cur­rently has at Coastal is more en­tic­ing than the rig­ors of an in­de­pen­dent base­ball team sched­ule.

“I was hop­ing that the draft would work out, but in the back of my mind I kind of knew it was go­ing to be tough,” he said. “My whole ca­reer I played first base. Be­ing 5-8, there aren’t many first base­man who get drafted at 5-8. Maybe if I had played sec­ond base more of my ca­reer there would have been a chance for that to hap­pen, but it was just kind of too late. I got a few calls from a few in­de­pen­dent teams, but I’ve been at Coastal here for the last year-and-a-half, two years as a foot­ball in­tern. They’ve given me that op­por­tu­nity to be able to work with the quar­ter­backs and the of­fense. It’s some­thing I don’t want to miss out on. I want to get into coach­ing, whether at the col­lege level or the high school level. I didn’t want to miss out on the op­por­tu­nity. I fig­ured that the in­tern­ship out­weighed the in­de­pen­dent ball. I’m very con­tent with how my col­lege ca­reer ended.”

And I’d bet he won’t ever mind watch­ing that tape.

PHOTO BY COASTAL CAROLINA ATH­LET­ICS

Coastal Carolina’s Tyler Chad­wick hits a solo home run in the team’s June 25 game against TCU dur­ing the Col­lege World Se­ries in Omaha. Chad­wick, the son of for­mer Lackey head foot­ball coach Scott Chad­wick, started at sec­ond base dur­ing each of the Chan­ti­cleers’ eight games in Omaha and helped the team to its first NCAA cham­pi­onship.

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