June 11, 2010


Little Guys, Big Impact

Brian Harris of Vanderbilt

Keith Werman of Virginia

Nathan Kilcrease of Alabama


Noel Ignites Chanticleers

By Brian Buckey

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com


Rico Noel (left) sat at his computer, just waiting.


It had been a busy few days for the Coastal Carolina junior outfielder. His team had just advanced to the Super Regionals for the second time in three years. He was named the Myrtle Beach Regional Most Valuable Player.


It almost didn’t happen though. In Sunday’s elimination game against College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina trailed 7-6 with one out in the ninth inning.


Scott Woodward drew a walk and then stole second base. He was now in scoring position for Noel.


“All we figured is that obviously we needed a guy on base and we got that,” Noel said. “Then I was just thinking drive him in.”


Noel drove a two-strike pitch off the foul pole in left field and earned the Chanticleers a dramatic walk-off, 8-7 win.


“I love being in those situations with guys on base and me up to the plate,” Noel said. “I just love winning, and I love being that clutch guy to come through for my team.”


Coastal Carolina went on to beat College of Charleston in the Regional Final 11-10 in extra innings. Noel had three hits and scored two runs.


Now Rico just sat and waited.


At 5-9, 170, Noel is the smallest player on his team. But what Noel lacks in size, he makes up for in speed. His 56 stolen bases rank first in the NCAA. Like Ichiro, one of his baseball idols, Noel also hits for average. He is second on the team with a .348 average. He also has surprising power, with 11 home runs and 62 RBI.


Rico was short on his high school team as well. But that didn’t stop him from putting up big numbers. His senior year at Lawton High School in Lawton, Okla., Noel hit .391 and stole 31 bases.


“Guys in high school have always been bigger than me,” Noel said. “Just growing up everyone’s been bigger than me. That just gave me something to work on, just work a lot harder.”


He overcame what many perceived as a weakness and was able to play for one of the top college programs in the country.


Now, Noel sat waiting to hear his name called.


When he finally heard it, he was relieved. The San Diego Padres had selected Noel with a fifth-round pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft.


“It’s been my dream my whole life, playing pro ball and hopefully I make it to the majors one year,” Noel said.


Noel most likely will have to overcome his size and his doubters at the next level. But he’s already proven he’s a great player at every level he’s played.


“People doubt you when you’re smaller, and I just love proving people wrong I guess,” he said. “I am what I am today because of that.”


(photos courtesy of Coastal Carolina Media Relations Office)