MORRIS: Benedict’s base-stealing prowess irks some foes

rmorris@ thestate.comMay 2, 2013 

BENEDICT’S BASE-STEALING bandits took their thievery to another level this college baseball season. They stole an NCAA Division II-record 333 bases, more than twice the total of their closest partner in crime.

Benedict set NCAA records with 32 stolen bases in one game, including a record 10 in one inning. Kevin Davis led the NCAA with 58 steals, just ahead of teammates Jocquese Brunson and Elisha McDaniel, who ranked second and fourth in the country with 50 and 39 steals, respectively.

“It’s fun to be part of something exciting. This is history,” says Selwyn Young, whose team has led the nation in stolen bases in each of his five seasons at Benedict. “This isn’t something that is done every day. I played baseball for a long time. I’ve coached baseball for a long time. This is unheard of. It doesn’t happen every day. It doesn’t happen every year.”

Raised eyebrows from around Division II baseball have come with the unprecedented attention gained by Benedict for its propensity to run like rabbits on the bases

The questions are usually about how Benedict might be taking advantage of playing competition that is not well schooled in the fundamentals of either holding runners on base or throwing them out by catchers.

Young bristles at the suggestion.

“Wait a minute. Hold on. We’re playing college baseball,” says Young, who believes opponents at any level can teach how to defend against a team’s running game just as he instructs how to employ it.

Yet a study of his team’s boxscores reveals that Benedict piled up a huge chunk of its stolen base total against inferior competition. In eight games against Virginia-Lynchburg, Morehouse and Lane, Benedict stole 144 bases, or 43 percent of its season total in 41 games. Benedict won those eight games by a cumulative score of 148-18.

Benedict opened the season with a Feb. 14 double-header thrashing of Virginia-Lynchburg by scores of 16-0 and 29-0. The Tigers stole 18 bases in the opener and 32 in the nightcap — including 10 in the 16-run second inning — despite both games being stopped after five innings because of a mercy rule. Because Benedict was the home team, it swiped the 50 bases in eight times at bat.

It should be noted that Virginia-Lynchburg completed a winless season by being outscored 307-20 in 18 games, and finally cancelled the final 16 games on its schedule. That might have been about the time Young says he received an email claiming Benedict was “running up the score” on opponents.

“I’m not doing anything other than when I see an opportunity, I take it,” Young says. “It’s just like running in basketball up and down the court. Our offense is speed. Everybody knows that.

“I’m not standing at third base with a calculator, saying, ‘OK, there’s 305. There’s 306.’ I’m trying to win the game, and the best way to win the game today is to score more runs than the next person.”

Young says he recruits athletes who can run and that helps explain how 10 players stole at least 10 bases this season. He also teaches his players to go all-out on the base paths in every inning of every game, regardless of the score.

To Young, a stolen base equates to a run scored. Benedict’s 333 stolen bases led directly to 411 runs scored this season, or an average of 10 per game. In turn, scoring runs equates to winning games and the Tigers went 28-13.

Young says there is an adrenaline rush he and his team experience whenever a runner gets on first base and prepares to steal second. He says the opposing dugout and everyone in the stands know what will happen next. Pitchers’ throws to first base and pitchouts heighten the excitement, according to Young.

If opponents do not like his way of playing the game, Young says he is OK with that because he does not answer to them. He answers to Benedict officials who sign his paycheck.

“If somebody’s mad at me for stealing, you know what, when they pay my rent and pay my mortgage and pay for everything else, then I’ll start considering being upset,” he says.

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