Feb. 4, 2014


Mercer Sold on Young

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


During his senior season at Marist School in Atlanta, Florida State recruit Brandon Leibrandt attracted plenty of professional scouts. One of those scouts took a liking to one of Leibrandt’s teammates, an undersized senior shortstop who had attracted little attention from college coaches.


Mercer coach Craig Gibson was in the market for an infielder when the scout from the Minnesota Twins tipped him off to the shortstop, prompting Gibson and recruiting coordinator Brent Shade to make the 90-minute drive from Macon, Ga.


“We were there for about 15 minutes, we were sold,” Gibson said.


Chesny Young (pictured above), with his high school playing days dwindling, bought into the Bears a couple weeks later.


All he’s done in two years with Mercer is quietly become one of the best hitters in college baseball. Young was named the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year after hitting .367 with 16 doubles, three homers and 37 RBI on a Bears team that went 38-21 in 2012. He followed it up by hitting .401 with 18 doubles, four homers and 65 RBI as the league Player of the Year and helped Mercer (43-18) to an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the first at-large bid in school history. Young, a 6-0, 170-pound right-handed hitter and third baseman, ranked sixth in the nation in hitting and trailed only Mississippi State’s Adam Frazier (107) with 105 hits. 


“No, I didn’t expect that,” Young said of his torrid hitting. “I try not to expect numbers per se or stats. I definitely focus more on the process and let the results take care of themselves. Obviously, I’ve been very fortunate having two strong years.”


As have the Bears, a program that has averaged 39.5 wins and twice boasted a final RPI under 60 over the past four years, including No. 37 last year.


Mercer enters 2014 as the team to beat in the A-Sun. In addition to Young, who carries a 30-game hitting streak into the season, the Bears return their three other top hitters, Derrick Workman (.338/9/48), Nick Backlund (.326/16/68) and Austin Barrett (.309/6/45). Young and Backlund were named honorable mention All-Americans by Louisville Slugger/CollegeBaseballInsider.com. Senior starters Brandon Barker (7-2, 2.66) and DJ Johnson (7-2, 3.06) and junior reliever Dimitri Kourtis (5-3, 2.94, 9 saves) return on the mound.


“We have a puzzle,” Gibson (left) said. “We look for the pieces to fit our puzzle.”


That includes players who can handle Mercer’s academic workload – 81 percent of the Bears had better than a 3.0 GPA, including three 4.0s, in the fall. Workman, who has a cumulative 4.0 in communications, was one of 11 college baseball players to be named to the Capital One All-Academic First Team in 2013.


It includes some muscle in the middle to take advantage of Mercer’s hitter-friendly home field mixed in with some athletic guys at the top and bottom of the lineup.


And it includes skill guys whom Gibson says are good baseball players but often don’t project coming out of high school. The kind of players who enjoy structure, working hard and developing their games.


Young fits that mold.


“He’s just a really good baseball player,” Gibson said. “He may not be the best runner, he may not be the best thrower. But if you want a guy who can flat out win, that’s what he is. He’s just a baseball player.” 


Young was a part of a state championship team his junior year in high school but missed the summer recruiting season with a back injury, a pars defect of his L5 vertebrae. He returned in time to help Leibrandt and company win a second straight state championship.


Yet, all he had was a “couple of offers from small, small schools.”


“It was getting down to crunch time,” Young said. “I’ve always had confidence in my ability even when other people may not see it.”


People are noticing these days.


A-Sun coaches unanimously selected Young as the top pure hitter in the conference in a CollegeBaseballInsider.com poll, and he’s the league’s Preseason Player of the Year. Nationally, he’s been named a third-team Preseason All-American by Louisville Slugger and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.


As he prepares for the season, Young realizes the Bears may have a bullseye on their backs. And he knows they need to replace key teammates at first, short and catcher. Yet, he also knows who he is as a player, the same kind of player who attracted a pro scout’s eye back in high school.


“My approach has been developed for a long time,” Young said. “I’ve always been a student of the game…Just knowing who I am, I’m a contact, line-drive hitter, so I never try to do too much.”


(photo courtesy of Mercer Media Relations)