It was midway through the 2010 season when Evan Beal’s baseball career changed forever.
The South County (Va.) pitcher received a smattering of innings here and there and had been solid through the first half of the campaign, showing SEC potential but not necessarily seeing SEC results. It wasn’t the dominance expected from a player with his skills.
The status quo changed in April, however.
“About midway through the year, he started to come on,” South County coach Mark Luther said. “He just ended up the year fantastic. Once he started going, he didn’t slow down.”
Fittingly, the season’s defining moment came in South Carolina for the USC signee. Beal pitched a shutout in the championship game of the Mingo Bay Classic in Myrtle Beach, and Luther said he was dominant the rest of the season.
Beal, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound righty, finished the year with a 5-2 record and 1.50 ERA, striking out 77 batters and walking 24. By the end of the season he was on the radar of the best college programs in the nation.
“I guess I just started to fill out a little better and grow into my frame,” Beal said of his 2010 transformation. “Height runs in the family for me. I put a little extra [weight] on and showed projectability and pitchability. I was able to go out there and get outs basically.
“I was always kind of a high-energy guy, but I learned how to tone that down a bit. Staying focused throughout the entire game is what is important.”
Luther expects that focus to make Beal nearly unhittable this season, calling his signature breaking ball “Major League” caliber right now. He also throws a fastball that touches 90 miles per hour and has the slider and changeup in his repertoire.
“I throw what scouts call a spike curveball, which is basically my out pitch,” Beal said. “If I’m trying to get anybody out, they’re going to swing and miss at my curveball. Fastball is 90 to 91. It’s solid but nothing that will blow you away. I throw a slider, and I’ve developed a changeup.”
Beal wants to continue honing either his slider or changeup to give him three legitimate pitches in his arsenal. USC’s coaching staff has told him that his opportunity to start with the Gamecocks – he’s been a starter for most of his prep career – could hinge on the development of his changeup.
A good one could land him in the rotation. A mediocre one could cause him to come out of the bullpen. Either way, he’s excited about the opportunity to attend school.
His brother, Jesse, was also a standout pitcher at South County. He was drafted 416th overall by the Baltimore Orioles in 2008 and chose to turn pro instead of attending Maryland. The younger Beal has always wanted to play college baseball, however.
“I really wanted to go to a Southern school, because baseball is so big in the South,” he said. “All my relatives live in North Carolina, so I kind of wanted to go from there down. My first offer was from the College of Charleston and things picked up from there.
“Most of all it’s the SEC, the conference they play in,” Beal said of his interest in USC. “It’s going out and competing every day. You’re never going to get an easy opponent. I love that.”