CORBIN — The recognition keeps coming for Corbin’s Chase Estep, with the most recent acknowledgment coming when the junior was voted as the 13th Region Player of the Year by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association.
Estep made a name for himself through his play on the diamond as a freshman at Corbin, and became well known statewide when he committed to the University of Kentucky and Coach Nick Mingione last season as a sophomore.
This season, Estep has once again led the Redhounds to another 50th District title and their first 13th Region Championship since 2005, as the shortstop, leadoff hitter, and closing pitcher for Corbin coach Cody Philpot.
Through 33 games, Estep has a batting average of .458 with seven home runs and 47 runs scored. He is No. 4 in the state in runs scored, and is in the top 25 for home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage and stolen bases.
Knowing that teams would try to pitch around Estep, Philpot made the decision to move his best hitter to the top of the lineup, as a way to almost guarantee a base runner to begin the game, and to put pressure on the opposing team to pitch to Estep.
“We started the year with him batting third, but we got to the point where we needed to get someone on base early, so I moved him there,” said Philpot. “This is a way we could also put pressure on the other team to make them pitch to him. He’s gotten his fair share of intentional walks this year, and with the way Noah Taylor is hitting the ball, teams have to decide if they want to pitch to Chase or give us a free runner and let Noah bring him in.”
While Estep is a threat to hit, steal a base, and score every time he comes to the plate, he has also been dominant on the mound for the Redhounds, in addition to being a phenomenal fielder at shortstop.
Estep has pitched nearly 33 innings this season, and has allowed 20 hits and five earned runs, while striking out 35 batters. His earned run average is an impressive 1.07 and he has a record of 4-1 this season. While he has the ability to be in the starting rotation, Philpot said his mentality is perfect for a closer.
“We don’t use him as a typical closer. We want to bring him in during the third or fourth inning and let him finish off a team for us,” said Philpot. “He has really accepted that role and he likes the moment and the pressure late in the game. His mentality fits that of a closer. We want the ball in his hand at the end of the game.”
The pressure of coming in to win a game is really constant for Estep. He is the focus of every team’s scouting report and is well known by every pitcher on the schedule because of his abilities. Philpot said that the added pressure of being a UK commit and one of the top talents in the state has not affected Estep.
“He has handled expectations well with everything that he has done. Everyone knows how good he is. Committing to UK brings added pressure, but he enjoys it,” Philpot said. “We’ve talked about staying within himself and not trying to do too much to carry the game. He knows the pressure is there and he wants to perform.”