2016 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Coach of the Year Press Conference
#22 Drew Thomas
Assistant Coach/Pitchers • Illinois State `98 • 12th Season at CCU
IN THOMAS' 11 SEASONS AT COASTAL CAROLINA, THE PITCHING STAFF:
• Finished among the NCAA top 40 in ERA eight times including three top 10 finishes (10th in 2009, 8th in 2010 and 3rd in 2012). CCU ranked among the NCAA top 15 in fewest hits allowed per nine innings four times (12th in 2009 and 2011, 7th in 2010 and 8th in 2012) • Led the conference in ERA six times (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016), strikeouts five times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016) and saves five times (2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2016) • Produced 18 Major League Baseball draft picks, including Major Leaguer Keith Hessler, fifth-rounder Pete Andrelczyk, fifth-rounder Cody Wheeler, second-rounder Anthony Meo and fourth-rounder Josh Conway. • Produced eight All-Americans (Bobby Gagg in 2007, Cody Wheeler in 2009 and `10, Nick McCully in 2009, Anthony Meo in 2010, Matt Rein in 2011, Aaron Burke in 2012, Andrew Beckwith in 2016 and Alex Cunningham in 2017) and three Freshmen All-Americans (Seth Lamondo in 2013, Bobby Holmes in 2015 and Austin Kitchen in 2016). • Produced the conference Pitcher of the Year six times (Bobby Gagg in 2007, Cody Wheeler in 2009, Anthony Meo in 2010, Matt Rein in 2011, Aaron Burke in 2012 and Andrew Beckwith in 2016), two confernce Freshmen of the Year (Seth Lamando in 2013 and Bobby Holmes in 2015) and a total of 30 all-conference selections, including 18 first team picks.
Drew Thomas begins his 12th season with the Coastal Carolina University baseball program as the pitching coach. His first five seasons were spent as a volunteer assistant on the baseball staff before being promoted to a full time post in the fall of 2011.
In his 11 seasons, Coastal's pitching staffs have led the conference in ERA six times, ranked among the nation's top 20 five times and ranked among the nation's top 12 in fewest hits allowed per nine innings four times.
In 2017, Alex Cunningham led the CCU staff by being named All-American and first team All-Sun Belt while being selected in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball draft. Cunningham led the league in strikeouts (117) while being a three-time Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week. Andrew Beckwith, who ranked second in the league with eight wins, was also named All-Sun Belt (second team) while being selected in the 32nd round by the Royals.
The 2016 season saw Coastal Carolina win the NCAA Division I College World Series. It was Coastal's offense that made headline through most of the season, leading the nation in home runs ranking among the NCAA top 10 in numerous categories. However, it was the pitchig staff, led by all-everything Andrew Beckwith and first team All-American Mike Morrison, that led CCU through the Big South Tournament, NCAA Raleight Regional, NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional and the College World Series.
At the Big South Tournament, the offense only batted .233 with just four home runs. The pitching staff posted a 2.25 ERA and opponents batted just .225. During the rest of the NCAA Tournament (regional through CWS), CCU's offense batted just .260 with sevenhome runs in 14 games. However, the Thomas' pitchers had a 3.00 ERA and held opponents to a .250 batting average. In the NCAA postseason, Bobby Holmes pitched in nine of the 14 games with a 3-0 record and two saves while posting a 1.93 ERA. Beckwith was 5-0 in five starts (six appearances) with a 1.96 ERA. Alex Cunningham was 2-1 withhis first career save (coming in the national championship game) with a 2.73 ERA while Mike Morrison was 1-0 with three saves in five relief appearances.
Beckwith was named the CWS Most Outstanding player as well as the Gregg Olson Award winner, the Touchdown Club of Columbus' National Male Athlete of the Year, the Big South's Howard Bagwell Male Athlete of the Year and the Big South Pitcher of the Year. He led the NCAA in wins (15 - a CCU record) and he ranked 16th in the NCAA with a 1.85 ERA to earn All-American honors.
Morrison, drafted in the 27th round by the White Sox, was named All-American by three outlets after going 8-1 with 11 saves in 34 apearances, adding a 1.50 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 72 innings and opponents managed just a .169 batting average off the right-hander. Alex Cunningham ranked 18th in the NCAA with 10 wins, earned second team All-Big South and was drafted in the 28th round by the Detroit Tigers. Austin Kitchen was named Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American after going 4-0 with two saves and posting a 3.19 ERA with an opponent batting average of .185.
In 2015, Coastal Carolina once again battled injuries down the stretch, losing All-Big South selections and No. 1 and 2 weekend pitchers Alex Cunningham and Austin Kerr. The pair were a combined 14-1 and played a key role in Coastal's resurgence before missing they missed final month with arm injuries. However, Bobby Holmes was named Big South Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American as he went 4-1 with four saves and opponents only managed a .228 batting average. Also, career relievers Andrew Beckwith and Brock Hunter were forced into the starting rotation and the pair thrived in their new roles. Beckwith finished with a 6-4 record and two saves, while Hunter was 4-0 with an opponent batting average of .214.
For a second consecutive season, injuries plagued the Chanticleer staff as All-American candidate Ben Smith and 2013 Freshman All-American Seth Lamando were lost midway through the season while Patrick Corbett and Alex Cunningham missed the entire season. Veterans Austin Kerr and Tyler Herb had solid seasons, but could not compensate for a freshman-laden staff. However, there were some bright spots as Kerr was a two-time Big South Pitcher of the Week after throwing consecutive complete-game shutouts and freshman Andrew Beckwith posted a CCU-record 1.49 ERA in 29 relief appearances. Also, at season's end, Smith and Herb were both drafted.
The 2013 season saw the staff battle numerous injuries, but still ranked second in the Big South in ERA (3.24) and led the league in strikeouts per nine innings (7.5). Smith was named first team All-Big South, Connolly closed his spectacular career earning second team All-Big South and Lamando was named the Big South Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American. Connolly, a three-time All-Big South selection, pitched in 139 games over his career, setting CCU and Big South records, while finishing his career fifth in NCAA history in pitching appearances. He additionally posted a 2.23 career ERA, setting the Big South career mark and breaking former teammate Anthony Meo's career ERA of 2.52.
In 2012, despite having a host of young arms (four freshman, two sophomores and three juniors) and losing ace Josh Conway midway through the season due to injury, Coastal's pitching staff had arguably the best season in school history. The group finished third in the NCAA in ERA (2.65) -- fourth best in school history, best in the Division I era and a Big South season record. In addition, Coastal's pitching staff ranked first in the NCAA in ERA in seven of the 13 regular-season ranking periods and ranked first, second or third in each of the final 13 ranking periods. Despite Conway's injury, he was still selected in the fourth round of the 2012 Major League Draft by the Chicago Cubs. Relief pitchers Aaron Burke and Connolly were central in the staff's success as Coastal set a Big South season record with 26 saves. Burke was a third team All-American, 2012 Big South co-Pitcher of the Year, first team All-Big South and shared Big South Tournament co-MVP honors with Connolly. Burke led the league and ranked fifth nationally in ERA (1.58), while leading the league and ranking 22nd in the NCAA with 10 wins. Connolly, a second team All-Big South selection, led the league and ranked 30th in the NCAA in saves, while ranking second in the league and 31st in the NCAA with a 2.10 ERA. Tyler Herb, a second team All-Big South pick, ranked second in the Big South behind Burke with nine wins, which ranked 37th nationally, while Herb's 2.61 ERA ranked sixth in the Big South and 96th nationally.
In 2011, Meo and Matt Rein highlighted a pitching staff with five pitchers rank among the school's top 12 for lowest single-season opponent batting average and four rank among the school's single-season best in the Division I era for lowest ERA. Overall, Coastal's staff posted a 2.97 ERA to lead the Big South and rank 18th nationally, while allowing just 7.79 hits per nine to rank 12th nationally. Also, the Chants would set CCU and Big South records by recording four consecutive shutouts, while throwing a total of 43.0 innings of scoreless baseball over six games. Coastal led the Big South in ERA, lowest opponent batting average, strikeouts, fewest hits allowed and fewest runs allowed. Meo would earn his third straight All-Big South honor and be drafted in the second round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Meo would post 115 strikeouts (sixth-best on the CCU single season list) and end his career with a Big South record 2.52 ERA (second-best all-time in CCU history and tops in the Division I era). Meo also finished with 32 wins -- becoming the first Big South pitcher to post at least 30 wins over a three-year span -- and 277 strikeouts, sixth on the CCU career list. Meo capped his impressive career by throwing a no-hitter in the Big South Tournament and having a dominant performance in a win over Connecticut in the NCAA Clemson Regional. Rein was named the 2011 Big South Pitcher of the Year, tabbed All-American and finished fourth on the CCU career list with 91 appearances.
Coastal was able to win the 2010 NCAA Regional and have the credentials to host a Super Regional thanks to an impressive pitching staff Headlined by Big South Pitcher of the Year Meo, who finished second in the NCAA with 13 wins, and fellow first team All-Big South pick Cody Wheeler, who was fifth in the NCAA with 12 wins. Both pitchers were named All-American by several publications. The two were joined on the Big South first team by relief pitcher Rein, while freshman relief pitcher Connolly was tabbed second team All-Big South. Meo, the American Baseball Coaches Association District IV Player of the Year, would go on to be a semifinalist for the Dick Howser and Golden Spike National Player of the Year awards with Wheeler being a fifth-round draft pick. Connolly capped the laundry list of honors by being named Freshman All-American after he set a CCU record with 40 pitching appearances in a season. Meo, Wheeler and Rein combined to go 32-3. Securing most of the wins was closer Austin Fleet, who was 6-2 with a Big South-best eight saves. Fleet was named first team Academic All-America as well we the Big South Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Overall, Coastal dominated the Big South pitching with a 3.53 ERA, nearly one full run better than the next closest team, while holding opponents to a meager .248 batting average. The Chants walked only 226 (3.48 per game) and struck out 530 (8.17 per game). Nationally, Coastal was eighth in ERA and seventh in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (8.37).
The Coastal Carolina pitching staff had a tremendous season in 2009. Wheeler was named the Big South Pitcher of the Year and was a second team Louisville Slugger All-American. He went 10-1 on the year and had a no-hitter against Hawai'i (March 26). Nick McCully was 8-1 with a 2.10 ERA and eight saves as well as being named to the All-Big South First Team and the All-Big South Tournament Team. McCully was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth round of the 2009 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. Meo was a first team All-Big South honoree his freshman season. He went 9-2 and set a CCU freshman record,with a 2.92 ERA en route to Freshman All-American honors as well. The Coastal pitching staff finished 10th in the country in ERA and 12th in hits allowed per nine innings.
The Coastal Carolina pitching staff enjoyed tremendous success in 2008, finishing 32nd in the country in ERA. Bobby Gagg, Joey Haug and Pete Andrelczyk were named to the All-Big South first team, while Nick McCully was a second team selection. McCully also was named to the All-NCAA Conway Regional team, while Haug was an All-Big South Tournament selection. Andrelczyk was selected in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins. In 2007, Coastal finished 18th in the country in ERA. Gagg was named the Big South Pitcher of the Year, while Gagg, David Anderson and Andy DeLaGarza all were named to the All-Big South teams. Gagg was a second team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and a second team All-Region selection by the ABCA. McCully also was named to the All-Big South Tournament team and was an All-Freshman Team selection by Ping! Baseball.
Thomas came to Coastal Carolina from the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., where he had worked since 2003. He was the roving pitching instructor for the Florida Collegiate Instructional League and also was the pitching coach for the Pendleton Academy. Thomas helped develop Chris Perez, a first-round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, and also worked with former Chanticleer Steven Carter.
Thomas was a private pitching instructor in Springfield, Ill., from 2001-02. He also was the head coach of the Mason County Legion in Springfield.
He pitched in the San Diego Padres organization in 1998-99, and played for the Canton Crocodiles of the Frontier League in 1999-2000. While with the Crocs, Thomas was the 2000 Frontier League Relief Pitcher of the Year, a League All-Star, and a second team Baseball America All-Independent Team member.
Thomas graduated from Illinois State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. He and his wife Jaymie have a son, Henry, and a daughter Lila.