Scott Mullen has been around Beaufort long enough to have worked with a number of players coming up through the youth leagues.
And so by the time they arrived on Mullen's Beaufort High School baseball team, some were already equipped with his wisdom and knew what to expect from the Eagles' coach. That could partly be seen with pitcher Bradley Brown, who emerged as Beaufort High's leading arm this season, his two-seam fastball molded in part by Mullen, years before Bradley joined the varsity roster.
Now Mullen, The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year for the second season in a row, is molding his group to become comfortable winning. And the Eagles exceeded most expectations by reaching the Lower State playoffs, the only unranked team remaining in the Class 4-A bracket.
"I always kind of knew we were in status with those teams," Mullen said.
Beaufort High overcame early injuries to standouts Carson Gregory and David Tilton. The Eagles won the District 6 title with an eight-inning victory over Wando, after having come back to defeat then-No. 2 West Florence in the opening game.
A buzzsaw waited in the Lower State bracket. Lexington boasted a future first-round draft pick, and Sumter threw ace Charlie Barnes, a nasty left-hander committed to Clemson.
"They learned a lot and it was a good experience for those guys," Mullen said. "Slowly, if these kids can get that confidence and understanding that we belong here versus ... just shell-shocked, they'll get more comfortable with that type of atmosphere."
Mullen, who completed his second year as Beaufort High coach, has been involved in the area longer than that. In addition to his stints at the youth level, he coached the American Legion's Beaufort Ospreys.
This summer, he's helping lead his daughter's travel softball team, the next Eagles' season on the back burner until fall. Mullen will have to replace Tilton at third base and Alex Silon in the middle infield, among a few other key senior losses. But he returns his top two pitchers, slugger Stephen Baggett in center field and first baseman Mattison Pike, who proved a solid reliever.
"I haven't really thought about next year just yet," Mullen said. "I know most of our kids are playing summer ball, whether Ospreys or travel ball, which is good. They need to keep playing, to keep getting at-bats."