When Gray Ange arrived at Silverdale Baptist Academy two years ago to take over the baseball program one of the first players he heard about was the so-called crafty lefthander Chase Cook.
“Most left-handed pitchers who are not your typical velocity guys get tagged with that ‘crafty’ description because they make a living throwing off speed to spots.
They find ways to get you out by not blowing it past you and traditionally they get called crafty because of it. That was what I was told about Chase, but that’s not the guy who showed up,” said Ange of his recently graduated pitcher.
“Chase worked really hard to develop his velocity and by the time I got him he was able to get his fastball by folks. And when you add the changeup, and the other junk he already had with the ability to locate them all for strikes, he was hard to beat,” Ange added.
So hard, in fact, Cook never lost a game during the two years he took the bump for the Seahawks, leading them all the way to the Division II-A Region quarterfinals. Cook finished his junior year with a 6-0 mark and topped it off with a 5-0 record this past season.
On Wednesday afternoon the pitcher used his left hand to ink scholarship papers to pitch for NAIA powerhouse Bryan College, joining a program coming off perhaps the finest season in school history.
“I used to take some pitching lessons when I was younger from (Bryan) coach (Taylor) Hasty and when I started looking around it was a pretty easy choice,” said Cook. “To be able to play for another four years is a blessing, but to be able to play for a program the quality of Bryan and one close to home is everything I could have hoped for.”
Cook converted from a reliever his freshman year in which he was fifth in the state in saves to become the Seahawks ace the past two seasons. An arm injury kept him off the mound his sophomore year but gave him the opportunity to strengthen it into what Ange got when he took over the program.
“I see myself probably more in a relief role at Bryan, but I will do whatever they ask of me. I had a great two years capped off by a memorable senior year with a great bunch of guys. I was fortunate to have Coach Ange work with me and help develop a mindset as much as anything,” said Cook.
Ange spoke of that mindset.
“The thing with Chase that strikes you most is his competitiveness. As a pitcher you are not always going to have your best stuff every night, but his determination to compete on those nights is what sets him apart. He just finds a way to get people out,” Ange said.
It was never more evident than in those region quarterfinals when Cook thwarted an explosive Knoxville Grace team in a 2-1 win to force a deciding third game which Grace ultimately won. Grace scored 33 runs combined in the two wins in which Cook didn’t toe the rubber.
On the season, Cook compiled the 5-0 mark in 54 innings pitched in which he struck out 59 and walked just 15. He finished with a 2.45 ERA. At the plate, the outfielder drove in 26 runs and hit .345 for the season.
He will join a Bryan squad that finished with a 41-17 record and earned a No. 1 seed in the NAIA Tournament for the first time in school history. They tied a school mark for second most wins in a season and earned a program best No. 9 national ranking in winning their first Appalachian Athletic Conference title, finishing just short of the NAIA World Series.
“I just want to go compete and see what I can do. I want to continue to develop what I’ve got. The main thing is being able to continue playing a game I love, that’s huge,” Cook added.
ON A SIDE NOTE: Ange has resigned the baseball position at Silverdale to return to his home in Vero beach, Florida where he will coach at Lincoln Park Academy.
“I am thankful for the opportunity I had to be at Silverdale, but with three young kids, I just felyt I needed to be back home with the rest of my family. I love Silverdale and all that it meant to me and my kids who were in school at the Academy, but it was time,” Ange said.
Silverdale has not named a replacement yet.
(Contact James Beach at 1134James@gmail.com; follow him on Twitter at @beachnut1134)