Starting all 35 games for the Chanticleers in the outfield so far this season, the stead-fast Kieton Rivers leads the 24th best collegiate baseball team in the country in Batting Average (.378), OPS (1.154), Slugging Percentage (.664), RBI (41), and Total Bases (79). Without a doubt, he has been Coach Gary Gilmore’s most consistent player this season, and the coach has taken notice.
“Last season, he was a bit more streaky,” Gilmore said. “This season he has improved his consistency…he always finds a way to contribute.”
With over 1,200 collegiate wins as a head coach and a National Championship under his belt, Gilmore has been around his fair share of stellar players, and even he is in awe of the season Rivers is having. In practice, Gilmore says, Rivers is always looking for ways to perfect his craft.
“He is incredibly coachable, but even more observant,” Gilmore said. “We give him simple messages, do not over coach or complicate things, he likes the process of figuring things out on his own.”
Evidently, the balance Gilmore and his staff have stuck between giving Kieton the coaching they believe is necessary while allowing him to experiment on his own has worked. Whatever it is, there is no need to change it.
In order to succeed at the level Rivers has this season, the work done behind the scenes is even more crucial than what happens at game time. So what has Rivers done that has translated so well into games this past season?
Rivers described some of his work ethic.
“Just focusing on mechanics…going out there [to the batting cages] and swinging a little bit before everyone else…as long as you’re always working hard,” Rivers said.
“He prepares himself well,” Cameron Pearcey told me.
Pearcey, who is also enjoying the nest season of his career for Coastal Carolina, had nothing but praise for his teammate.
“When it is time to play, he plays,” he said.
His tireless approach to perfecting his swing, to making sure that he is confident in his preparation when he steps into the batter’s batters on the biggest stage, that is the mindset of successful baseball players at any level…and Rivers fits that mold perfectly.
College athletes are asked to sacrifice an enormous amount if they are truly dedicated to succeeding in their particular sport. Waking up at 3 a.m., 5 a.m. flights, and early morning workouts are just the tip of the iceberg. If they truly want to be great, they often are asked to prioritize practice over social events, or the team over themselves.
Kieton Rivers understands the sacrifice, but he embraces it. For him, it is part of the legacy of being a Chanticleer, and also stems from a deep desire to be great at the collegiate level and beyond.
Rivers explained where the motivation comes from.
“For me, I want to be the first person in my family to play professional baseball,” he said.
A desire to be great, a thirst for the next step. That is who Kieton Rivers is.
Cameron Pearcey and Kieton Rivers are two of a handful of players on this year’s Chanticleer team who were on the 2016 National Championship team.
“He has been my best friend for four years, we do everything together,” Rivers said about Pearcey.
Four seasons as friends, four seasons as teammates, four years to develop as baseball players alongside one another. Pearcey was able to describe Rivers in just four words.
“He is a gamer” Pearcey said.
Four simple words, yet no better way to describe the face of this Chanticleer team.
Kieton Rivers certainly is a gamer. He is the MVP of his team this far into the season, and in a few months he may very well be the first person in his family to play professional baseball.