Outfielders won’t admit it but their minds will sometimes wander during a slow-paced baseball game.
However, that is not the case with ETSU's Chas Byrne. He doubles as a left fielder and a relief pitcher for the Buccaneers. He never knows when he is going to get the call to the mound so by necessity he intensely follows every aspect of a game
“It is a mindset,” Byrne said. “You have to be mentally focused. You have to go hard all the time. You can’t ever back off.
“Whether I am in the outfield or on the bench I have to know every situation in the game. You have to know where the runners are, who is coming up to bat and how hot that hitter is. It is a grind.”
Friday afternoon he entered the game in the sixth inning with ETSU trailing 10-9. He shut down the top-seeded FGCU Eagles in the final 3.2 innings, allowing only one hit and striking out three of the 12 batters he faced. While he was on the mound his teammates rallied for three runs to steal a 12-10 victory.
Byrne, a right-hander, makes a few extra throws in the outfield between innings to keep his arm warm. He throws a split-finger fastball in the low-to-mid-90s range and also has a slider.
“I love coming into a game in relief,” Byrne said. “I love being the guy the coach calls on to come in and close it out and get the game over with. Whatever the coach asks I’m going to do.”
ETSU, the No. 3 seed, stayed alive in the tournament and will meet Mercer for the second time in as many days tonight at 7:00 p.m. CT at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium on the Lipscomb University campus.
It was the first time in the history of the series that ETSU beat FGCU. The Eagles had won the previous nine meetings. FGCU was the only A-Sun school the Buccaneers had not beaten in at least one game.
“It has been a very lopsided rivalry,” ETSU coach Tony Skole said. “In the tournament atmosphere there is so much pressure. We wanted to try to apply pressure on them every inning.
“We had some guys that had some great efforts and big hits. Chas Byrne was phenomenal. It was a Herculean-type effort. He is such a great athlete and a great competitor. He has been doing this all his life.”
ETSU fell to Mercer 10-7 Friday night. ETSU had 17 hits in that loss and 16 hits in the FGCU win. On the other side of the ledger, ETSU’s pitchers allowed 17 hits against Mercer and 14 in the FGCU win.
“When you get into the tournament atmosphere it is very pressure packed,” Skole said. “Everything you do well is magnified. Every mistake is magnified.
“You have to keep going. Teams constantly make runs. It is almost like basketball where teams make runs and you have to withstand them.”
Byrne is one of the two pitchers on the ETSU staff who also plays in the field. Skole admits his pitching is a little thin. He is undecided on who will go the mound against Mercer.
ETSU has several major offensive weapons, led by Paul Hoilman, A-Sun Player of the Year, and Bo Reeder. Byrne appreciates that offensive ability, especially when he is on the mound.
“We are just a great hitting team,” Byrne said. “I don’t know how many sac bunts we have on the year, but we don’t have many. We like to hit and our coach loves for us to be real aggressive. It is tough to pitch around our lineup.”