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."
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"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.
CHANTS WIN!!— Coastal Baseball (@CoastalBaseball) May 12, 2018
Conway Causey does it again, closing out today's game with a K. pic.twitter.com/D95YSUIgCZ
"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.
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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."