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Brentz’s Big Bat, Arm Boost
By Barrett Neale
generally aren’t known for their hitting, but Bryce Brentz is an
Brentz, a junior pitcher
and outfielder at Middle Tennessee State University, led the
NCAA in four categories last season: batting average (.465),
home runs (28), slugging percentage (.930) and total bases
(214). He set single-season school records in all four
categories, as well as hits (107) and runs (79).
“People would call me up and ask, ‘Who’s keeping
your stats? Have you moved your fences in?’” said Blue Raiders
coach Steve Peterson, whose squad went 44-18, won the Sun Belt
regular season and conference titles and went 1-2 at the
Louisville Regional. “I would watch people try not to pitch to
him, try not to throw him strikes. He would sit there and rifle
a ball off the wall that was pitched down and away.”
Brentz said he started each
season with the same goals: bat .300, hit five or six home runs
and get 40 RBI. He attained higher goals, such as becoming the
2008 Freshman of the Year and the 2009 Player of the Year in the
Sun Belt Conference, but added that he didn’t think about those
“If you put too much pressure on yourself, you
don’t let your ability just take over,” Brentz said. “That’s why
I set these lower goals. I call them stupid goals. Once I get
them, I just relax and have fun the rest of the season.”
Senior Kenneth Roberts, the Blue Raiders’ ace who
went 11-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 2008, called Brentz was one of the
hardest workers in the clubhouse. He said Brentz was like two
players in one and dominated whether he was pitching or hitting.
Brentz went 5-3 with a 4.57 ERA as a weekend starter (two
complete games, 63 Ks and 31 BBs in 88.2 IP).
“He’s just so confident,” Roberts said. “It just
rubs off on everybody.”
Despite his confident exterior, Brentz said he
was always surprised if he hit the first pitch of an at-bat.
“Sometimes I’ll be in the batter’s box and one of
my legs will just be shaking,” he said. “After I swing the bat
one time it’s a relief. … It’s not like I’m scared nervous, but
it’s like ‘Man, we’re about to play’ nervous.”
a self-described late-bloomer, did not talk to any college
baseball coaches until his senior year of high school. Middle
Tennessee, which he said was a perfect fit, was the first school
to approach him.
“He caught our eye,” Peterson said. “My assistant
coach Jim McGuire was instrumental in bringing him back to us
and saying: ‘Coach, you need to see this guy. I think he can
hit, and I know he can pitch.’”
Peterson said Brentz, from Knoxville, Tenn., was
a quiet competitor who had exceeded everyone’s expectations.
When describing the past two years, Brentz cited personal and
team victories: his grand slam that gave his team the win it
needed to qualify for the 2008 conference tournament; pitching
six scoreless innings to give Peterson his 800th win; and being
in a dog pile with his teammates when they won the conference
tournament last year.
“I’ve been one win away from winning a
championship in high school, never had a ring, never been a part
of a championship team,” Brentz said. “When we did that, that
was the biggest thrill of my life.”
Brentz was named a
consensus All-American and played for Team USA last summer,
which Peterson said has increased his visibility to Major League
scouts. Despite these accolades, Brentz remains humble.
“I’m glad to be out there with those players,” he
said. “I played with a lot of those All-Americans at Team USA.
It’s kind of baffling to go, ‘Man, I read about you in
Baseball America and now I’m talking to you.’”
Peterson said he would provide Brentz with new
challenges this season. He plans to move Brentz from left field
to center and said he might ask him to serve as the team’s
“I’m going to give him all kinds of opportunities
to be a bright star offensively and to be a big cog in our
pitching staff,” Peterson said. “If this is his last year of
amateur baseball, I want him to go out with a bang.”
Peterson said professional scouts told him Brentz
was good enough to be picked during the first three rounds of
the 2010 MLB draft. Although the Cleveland Indians drafted
Brentz as a pitcher after high school, he said he planned to
enter the draft as an outfielder.
“I’ve had two great years, but baseball is always
a game of, ‘What have you done for me lately?’” Brentz said.
“We’ll see what happens. I think if I hit the way I’m capable of
hitting, everything will take care of itself.”
(photos courtesy of MTSU Media Relations Office)