Coastal to face Clemson-South Carolina loser Sunday at Noon
A behind-the-scenes blog with the Inside the Clubhouse producers.
#22 Drew Thomas
Assistant Coach/Pitchers Illinois State `98 8th Season at CCU
IN THOMAS' SIX SEASONS AT COASTAL CAROLINA, THE PITCHING STAFF:
Finished among the NCAA top 40 in ERA seven times including three top 10 finishes.
Led the Big South in ERA five times, including four straight years.
Produced 12 Major League Baseball draft picks, including fifth-rounder Pete Andrelczyk, fifth-rounder Cody Wheeler, second-rounder Anthony Meo and fourth-rounder Josh Conway.
Produced six All-Americans (Bobby Gagg in 2007, Cody Wheeler in 2009 and `10, Nick McCully in 2009, Anthony Meo in 2010, Matt Rein in 2011 and Aaron Burke in 2012).
Produced the Big South Pitcher of the Year five times (Bobby Gagg in 2007, Cody Wheeler in 2009, Anthony Meo in 2010, Matt Rein in 2011 and Aaron Burk)e, Big South Freshman of the Year (Seth Lamando in 2013) and a total of 22 All-Big South selections, including 15 first team picks.
Drew Thomas begins his eighth 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 seven seasons, Coastal's pitching staffs have led the Big South in ERA five times and ranked no lower than 37th in the NCAA in ERA, ranking among the nation's top 20 five times, and ranked among the nation's top 12 in fewest hits allowed per nine innings in 2009, `10, `11 and `12.
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). Sophomore Ben Smith was named first team All-Big South, Ryan Connolly closed his spectacular career earning second team All-Big South and Seth 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 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 its best season in school history. The group finished third in the NCAA in ERA (2.65) -- fourth best in school history and best in the Division I era. 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 Ryan Connolly were central in the staff's success. 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, second team All-Big South, 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, Anthony 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 six-year-old son, Henry, and a four-year-old daughter Lila.