May 9, 2014

Coley makes most of time on the mound with Lions

In just one year of varsity baseball, Christian Heritage School pitcher Chandler Coley gained the attention he needed to continue his career at the next level.

Coley transferred from Dalton High School after his sophomore season and, per Georgia High School Association rules, was ineligible for varsity play during his junior season. But he made a big impact for the Lions during his senior year.

He was 2-1 with two saves, 27 strikeouts and a 3.40 ERA in 32 innings pitched while playing in Region 6-A.

Six teams from the region advanced to the state playoffs in the Class A private school or public school bracket after finishing in the top 16 of their respective power rankings.

Coley’s performance was enough to capture the eyes of Chattanooga’s Tennessee Temple University, and he signed an athletic scholarship with the Crusaders on Thursday at Christian Heritage.

“One thing I really liked about Tennessee Temple was that it was a small school and close to home,” Coley said. “It is a Christian college, so I don’t have to worry about going somewhere far away (where) there is the opportunity of possibly getting into trouble. At Tennessee Temple, there are the right kind of people around me who can keep shaping me and molding me into the man God wants me to be.”

Crusaders coach Greg Bartley said Coley will bring the perfect combination of academic talent, baseball accomplishment and spiritual hunger to his team, which competes in the National Christian College Athletic Association.

“First and foremost, he is a high character guy,” Bartley said. “We don’t recruit guys that aren’t high character and high academic. That was the first thing that attracted me to him. His dad is a coach, and I know that he is a tough, hard-nosed kid. He throws a lot of strikes and throws three pitches for strikes. It was the perfect fit for us.”

Coley throws his fastball in the mid 80s and also utilizes a curveball and changeup. For the Lions — who struggled this season, finishing 10-13 and missing the playoffs after advancing in 2013 — he was a key piece for the team in a region that was arguably the state’s deepest in talent for Class A.

“He had a strong season, and we were very proud of him coming in as a senior,” said Noah Stokes, who stepped down as Christian Heritage’s coach after the season. “He didn’t get to play last year, so it was kind of a mystery with what we were going to have with him. We got to see him play over the summer, but he had some great starts on the mound. He now has a good opportunity at a good program close to home and you like to see that.”

The Crusaders finished 12-21 this year, with Bartley losing players to academic trouble before the start of the season. The team had just six pitchers on a 14-man roster, and Bartley said he has made building his rotation up a main priority this offseason.

“We struggled this year with pitching depth, and that has been a main focus with our signings,” Bartley said. “We will probably have seven or eight (signings), with 10-12 (pitchers) on staff next year. I don’t want to go through what we went through this year. Chandler can come in in a variety of ways. I don’t know what we will use him in, but it is a good fit for him and a good fit for us.”

Coley said it is now up to him to go and win a spot.

“The offer came from the baseball coach, and he was telling me he was going to offer me a spot in the rotation, and that if I wanted it, it would be there for me to work to get in,” Coley said. “They are going to be expecting me to go out and perform at the level they expect and throw strikes. They are expecting a lot out of me since I will be one of the freshmen who are starting.”

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