Most seasons, the coach of the year honor is given to someone who has led his team deep into the postseason or, in many an instance, guided their team to a state championship.
Camden head baseball coach Denny Beckley did neither of those as his Bulldogs finished second behind Chapin in Region 4-AAA play before falling to defending and current AAA Upper State champion Belton-Honea Path in the AAA District 1 tournament.
Neither of those facts prevented Beckley’s peers from name him as the AAA state baseball coach of the year for 2016 as voted on by the South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association (SCBCA).
Beckley’s honor, his second time receiving this award, was announced along with the SCBCA’s All-State baseball teams for all four classifications. Beckley’s son, Camden High junior pitcher/third baseman Devin Beckley, was named to the AAA All-State team while North Central senior pitcher/infielder Tyler Bowers earned AA All-State accolades.
Camden finished with a 16-7 record this past season and 8-2 in 4-AAA play in spite of having lost six starters from last year’s AAA Upper State runner-up squad. The Bulldogs did return their top two pitchers --- Devin Beckley and Will Abbott --- but had to replace their entire outfield along with three infielders.
Denny Beckley said he was caught off-guard by his honor while deflecting the credit to his players and coaching staff.
“First of all,” said Beckley, who also won this award in 2009 after taking the Dogs to the AAA Lower State title and within a game of winning a state championship, “I’m extremely humbled. It’s more of an hour for our entire program than it is for me. I’ve said this time and time again that our assistant coaches are the best in the world; they’re the ones who deserve all the credit.”
Beckley said that this particular award does hold great significance since it is voted on by the coaches throughout the state.
“It is more meaningful because, usually, this award goes to someone whose team has gone far into the playoffs,” he said. “We did not do that this year so, I’m humbled by that part of all this.”
With a pitching staff led by the return of Abbott and Devin Beckley, the Camden coach said the Bulldogs set the bar high for the 2016 campaign in spite of the hit taken by graduation to key players in 2015. That being the case, Denny Beckley said his team came up short of their goals in the recently completed season.
“Our expectations were to win the conference championship, make a good run in the playoffs and, possibly, compete for a state championship,” he said. “In that respect, we did not meet our preseason expectations.”
In what might be described as a rebuilding year at Camden, Beckley said the first-year starters came through at the plate, in the field and, most importantly, in the clutch as the Dogs won many a game by coming up big in the latter innings of contests.
Beckley, again, credited his coaching staff of Brian Kersey, Tony Hough, Josh Wilson and Joe Bowers for developing a young and cohesive Bulldog squad.
“We knew we had a good pitching staff returning and that would give us a shot,” Beckley said. “What we may not have expected from this team was to be as tough mentally as they were, how well we played defensively and how they came through in the clutch in big ballgames.
“That is a tribute to our entire coaching staff and how they handle practices and how our practices translated to our performance in games.”
The next step, Beckley said, is to build on a strong foundation and take it to the next level in 2017.
“We have to get a lot better if we want to win a state championship which is the ultimate prize,” he said.
All-State players: Devin Beckley, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, ended his 2016 season with a 7-1 record. Included in that win total was a no-hitter, his second in as many seasons.
Devin Beckley made 12 mound appearances with nine starts. He threw 57 innings, fanned 70 batters while pitching to a 1.47 earned run average. Opposing batters hit .160 off him last spring.
Tyler Bowers, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, earned SCBCA All-State laurels for the third consecutive time in his six-year varsity career. as a Knight
In his final go ‘round at North Central, the school’s all-time leading hitter for average (.437), home runs (19), RBI (109) and hits (164), batted .491 with four home runs, 12 doubles while having driven home 19 runs in 22 games.
On the mound, the Florence-Darlington Technical College signee had a 1-1 record with a pair of saves in 12 appearances. He had 48 strikeouts in 37.1 innings of work.