University of Southern Maine baseball coach Ed Flaherty was a little surprised one day in preseason to see senior Josh Mackey taking groundballs at second base.

Before missing last season due to injury, Mackey had been an all-conference selection at third base for the Huskies. That, however, was before he had seen Forrest Chadwick play.

“He said, ‘This kid’s gonna have to play some place, maybe I can look at another position,’ ” Flaherty said.

Mackey proved correct as Chadwick, a freshman from Gardiner, is the team’s starting third baseman. Flaherty knew he had something special when he recruited Chadwick and so far it’s been confirmed.

“He’s among the top three or four freshmen I’ve ever had,” the USM coach said. “He’s faster and stronger than anybody I’ve ever had at that age.”

Chadwick, who bats from the left side, has so far hit well. After 14 games he’s batting .371 with two home runs, nine doubles and 20 runs scored. He leads the team in the last two categories, but coming into the season he may have underestimated his ability.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be starting at this point,” Chadwick said. “I was just looking to play baseball.”

Chadwick bats leadoff for the Huskies, which helps explain the 20 runs scored. In timed 60-yard dashes this week, he’s proved the team’s fastest player (6.5 seconds), and Flaherty thinks he’ll eventually turn into a good base stealer.

Although Chadwick doesn’t have the green light to steal, he leads the team with six thefts in seven attempts. Batting leadoff is also new for Chadwick, who batted second or third at Gardiner.

“It’s a little bit of a change, but I like it,” he said.

Flaherty said Chadwick will eventually hit in the middle of the order to take advantage of his power. He’s already led off a game this season with a home run, a 375-foot blast to the opposite field against Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“He can drive the ball to both fields,” Flaherty said.

Chadwick, who only struck out once during his junior year at Gardiner, has already fanned a team-leading 13 times this season. Flaherty said Chadwick’s had a few problems hitting breaking balls.

“(His swing) is short and compact,” Flaherty said. “The only thing we try to get him to do is stay back a little more.”

Chadwick said he’s dropped his hands a little to adjust to faster pitching.

“I had kind of a loopy swing before,” he said. “When I’m at the plate, I just try to make solid contact. My biggest thing right now is I’m trying not to strike out.”

Playing third base has also been an adjustment for Chadwick, who played shortstop, second base and pitched in high school. Flaherty said Chadwick needs to work on the little things, like charging balls to his left and fielding slow rollers, but all in all, he’s satisfied.

“I’ll tell you what, you don’t get anything by him,” the coach said.

The move to third was due in part to Chadwick’s size. The 6-foot-1 Chadwick weighs 190 pounds and is still growing. Flaherty envisions him as a 210-pound power hitter before he’s done at USM. The coach is also impressed by Chadwick’s knowledge of the game.

“I do kind of pride myself in a knowing a lot about the game,” Chadwick said. “Being down here has opened my eyes a lot more.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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