EACH passing week seems to present a new adventure for Jefferson alum Chris Beck.
One weekend, the pitcher was picking up Southern Conference baseball tournament MVP honors for Georgia Southern. The next week, he was playing in the NCAA regionals. This week, he finds himself in the illustrious Cape Cod League, where he’ll spend the rest of the summer playing baseball in the popular New England vacation destination.
“It’s so much different from Statesboro,” Beck said Friday via telephone from Massachusetts.
Beck, who played at Jefferson from 2006-2009, fashioned a stellar sophomore season this past spring, returning from a injury his freshman year to go 9-5 with a 3.23 ERA and lead Georgia Southern in strikeouts (109) and innings pitched (103). He also tied for the team lead in wins. Beck takes those accomplishments in stride.
“It was a pretty good year – a lot of growing experience from last year,” he said. “I just came back healthy this year. I got hurt at the end of last year, and I came back healthy this year, and just wanted to continue to compete for a Friday night (starting) spot, and everything just worked out, and I kept building from start to start.”
Beck’s freshman season ended with him straining a UCL and having an impingement in his labrum. But he was back to 100 percent by the time the 2011 campaign rolled around, and the 6-3, 220-lb. right-hander couldn’t have scripted his bounce-back season any better.
By the Southern Conference tournament, he was nearly unhittable. Against Charleston Southern and Samford, Beck pitched a combined 17 innings, yielding just one earned run and eight hits while striking out a Southern Conference tournament record 22 batters. Beck’s three-hit shutout of Samford clinched the championship for the Eagles (36-26) and sent Georgia Southern to the NCAA Regionals.
Beck’s scant 0.53 ERA in the Southern Conference tournament earned him tournament MVP honors as well as a “Primetime Pitcher of the Week” nod by CollegeBaseball360.com.
Beck explains the zone he worked himself into during the Southern Conference tournament.
“What worked a lot is that we worked off the fastball,” Beck said. “I basically went right at them, especially the College of Charleston. I basically stayed within myself a lot. I knew that they were very important games, and that the team needed a good performance, so I just really fed off that.”
The Eagles moved on to the NCAA Regionals at South Carolina where they fell in two games. Beck called Georgia Southern’s run in 2011 “a pretty good year” but one that “leaves a lot of growing room for next year.”
Beck’s collegiate success on the mound should come as no surprise, given the imprint he left on the Jefferson record book. He’s the career ERA (1.61), wins (31) and saves (10) and strikeouts (363) leader at Jefferson, while also holding the single-season record for strikeouts with a 130 in 2009. He’s also tied for the single season record for saves with four in 2007.
“You knew he was going to be special from the time he showed up as a freshman … You couldn’t probably predict that he was going to throw as hard as he does, but you could tell he was going to be special from the get-go,” Jefferson coach Tommy Knight said.
Jefferson went to the state Final Four during Beck’s sophomore year and the Elite Eight his junior year. Beck points to Jefferson’s playoff series against Eagles’ Landing his sophomore year or the no-hitter he threw as a senior in the Region 8-AA championship against North Oconee as the highlights of his prep career.
Beck ended up being drafted in the 35th round by Cleveland in 2009 but opted to go to Georgia Southern.
He notes the integral part his Jefferson days played in his baseball career.
“(Playing at Jefferson) was a huge part (of my career),” Beck said. “Coach Knight helped me do a lot of growing up … He helped me basically grow up from freshman to senior year and changed a lot, more mentally than anything. So I give probably all the credit to getting to college ball to coach Knight. Without him, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to go to the next level.”
And now Beck represents Jefferson at the next level very well.
His standout sophomore season earned him the spot in the Cape Cod League, which draws some of the top talent in college. A couple of slots opened up with some players moving to Team USA, so Beck was able to join the Cotuit Kettleers, which won the Cap Cod title last season. Beck made an impact immediately, throwing seven innings to earn a victory in Cotuit’s 7-2 Sunday victory over the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. He allowed just one earned run while striking out six.
Beck said he’s liking his summer on the Cape so far.
“It’s really nice up here,” Beck said. “It’s a lot different than down south.”
Beck’s goals for next year – his junior season – include more wins for Georgia Southern, a deeper run in the NCAA tournament and maybe a few more accolades for himself. He’s also eligible for the Major League draft in 2012.
“Team-wise, get 40-plus wins,” Beck said of the Eagles’ goals. “We got close to it (this year). (We also want to) win the SoCon and get back to a regional and even farther than that – win a regional and a super regional. And individually, I’d have to say, get the Friday night job, have a healthy year and hopefully win Pitcher of the Year and end up getting drafted.”