When North Myrtle Beach hired Brian Alderson to take over its baseball program back in the early summer of 2014, the school was confident that it was bringing in a proven winner.
Sure, there wasn’t even a full-time position available, so he spent that first year splitting time between two schools on either side of the state line, so there was little fear of what the school would do in terms of his contract if it didn’t appear to be working out.
Talk about a low-risk, high-reward move.
Five years in, and four after he added a teaching role, the Chiefs administration is getting exactly what it hoped it would out of the 45-year-old coach with the strong pedigree.
On Friday, the Chiefs moved to 9-2 overall and kept their region record unblemished through four games with a 4-0 victory over Darlington at home. It appears Alderson’s crew could have the inside track on a region championship this spring.
Considering this a program that had one winning season in the seven immediately prior to his arrival, yes, it’s a good time to be a North Myrtle Beach baseball fan.
And a player.
“The group when [Alderson] first came in, there weren’t accustomed to winning. They were kind of just out here doing it to be doing it,” senior Dalton Simpson said. “Now, we have 16 guys on this team who would run through a brick wall to win. … This program is trending upward. There are definitely high expectations for us.”
Said Alderson: “We’re getting used to being in the situation we’re in. I’ve got a bunch of kids who believe in what we’re doing.”
Friday’s win was another relatively comfortable one, thanks in part to a fantastic starting effort from pitcher Ethan Mathews. He gave up just one hit in five innings and did not allow a single Falcon to reach second base.
Darlington also had five early errors and some pitching issues that helped North Myrtle Beach’s cause. It wasn’t the Chiefs’ best game of the year, not by far. But the fifth-ranked team in Class 4A can regularly win on semi-off nights.
Much of that is because of the job Alderson has done.
“BA, no doubt, is one of the best coaches North Myrtle Beach has hired, as far as I’m concerned,” athletics director Joe Quigley said Friday, using the coach’s well-known nickname. “He is one of the hardest working coaches we’ve had. I’m really satisfied. BA is here all the time, all year.”
It shows in the pristine look of the field, which can be considered one of the nicer playing surfaces in Horry County, as well up in the North Myrtle Beach’s baseball office, where a couch, fridge and microwave help accommodate the coach’s hours. Alderson’s desk, which overlooks the field, is relatively organized, something you’d expect from a former Army Infantryman.
The one thing that’s missing from the office is recent hardware.
Although last year’s Chiefs won 21 games, finished second in the region and advanced to the district finals (where they lost to eventual state champ Chapin), this is a program that has not won a region title since 2007. And while they’ve been in the playoffs in each of Alderson’s first four years, postseason success has been relatively rare. Records for the early playoff rounds in the 1990s and 2000s aren’t the greatest, but Quigley said he doesn’t believe the school has reached the Lower State tier of the postseason since the early 1990s.
That’s certainly not what Alderson was accustomed to after serving as an assistant under his father, Mike, at West Brunswick for 12 seasons. He began working with his dad in 2000 after leaving the Army, and in the years that followed, they teamed up to win three conference titles and even a state championship.
Alderson’s current players know about that success, and they’re ready to start replicating it. North Myrtle Beach has at least put itself in position to add some accolades this spring.
The Chiefs’ offense is averaging better than 10 runs per game (although some of that was bolstered by a 24-run output earlier in the week against Loris), and scored at least seven runs in eight of its first 11 games. Four different players were averaging at least one RBI per game, while two players - Simpson and sophomore and Clemson verbal commitment Billy Barlow - were batting north of .400.
Defensively, the pitching staff has an ERA under 3.80, led by Barlow (4-0), Mathews (2-0) and Simpson, who has five saves.
There are plenty of other components, too; there usually are with a baseball team playing at this level. It’s part of the reason North Myrtle Beach has a chance to do something special the rest of the way.
Winning is what the people who hired Alderson hoped for. And now it’s what coach and players believe should be the status quo.
“It’s crazy how fast it’s changed,” he said. “When I first got here, there was a sour taste, just in the locker room. I had hardly any kids involved in offseason training. Now all of them are in offseason training. They have a passion to play baseball.”