While growing up, kids dream of achieving an extraordinary feat. For baseball players, they want the chance to come up to bat in the bottom of the ninth and hit a home run to win the game.
On March 21, Middle Tennessee sophomore Bryce Brentz had that opportunity. In the bottom of the ninth against conference foe Florida Atlantic, the Blue Raiders were down 4-3, and junior Drew Robertson had just advanced to first base after being hit by a pitch. He represented the tying run.
Brentz stepped up to the plate and crushed the first pitch over the right field wall. The Blue Raiders won 5-4.
“Coach (Steve Peterson) came up there and told me I got one swing, and then he was going to give me the sacrifice bunt,” Brentz said after that game. “I looked back at the pitching chart. They had thrown me a lot of first pitch fastballs, except for my last at bat. The guy (Hugh Adams) was a fastball/slider pitcher. So I knew it was going to be a slider or a fastball, and I was sitting dead red. I actually got a good pitch out over the plate and put a pretty good swing on it. The rest is history.”
Brentz has been one of the reasons that the Blue Raiders already have more wins, 28, than they had all last season, when MTSU finished the 2008 campaign with a 27-29-1 record.
“Last year, we had a really good team,” Brentz said. “We just didn’t put it all together at certain times. This year, we are doing that. We are playing a lot a better. The chemistry on this team is a whole lot better. We got good leadership from our seniors.”
Bryce added the team enjoys hanging out with each other on and off the field.
As of April 27, Brentz leads the team with a .490 batting average with 21 home runs and 55 RBI. Before the season, he was named to the SBC Preseason team. After a recent sweep against Louisiana-Monroe, Brentz was SBC Player of the Week for the second time this season. During the three wins, Bryce had six extra base hits, six RBI and a .667 batting average.
“He gets great backspin on the ball,” MTSU head coach Steve Peterson said. “He has power that can drive the ball out of the park both ways.”
Brentz added he learned how to hit from his favorite Major League player, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman and two-time MVP Albert Pujols.
His arm also has played a key role in the turnaround. He is second on the team with a 3.90 ERA, and he has struck out a team-high 46 batters. Peterson added he is a difference maker for the pitching staff.
Last year as a freshman, Brentz was named SBC Freshman of the Year and selected for three different All-American teams, even after suffering an elbow injury late in the season.
“It was a great honor, there’s a ton of talented athletes in the Sun Belt, let alone the whole nation,” Brentz said.
He almost did not make it to Murfreesboro, because after his senior year in high school he was picked in the 30th round of the 2007 MLB draft by the Cleveland Indians. He chose to go to school instead.
“If I had gone to pro ball, I just don’t think it would have been a success,” Brentz said. “I think I would have been okay, but I don’t think I would have held my own being so young and immature.”
Brentz says he hopes to enter the 2010 draft after his junior season. He would like to stay around the game after his playing career is over, hopefully in coaching.
“I still help out some of the younger players, the freshman with hitting from what I learned my freshman year. I want to just try to get as much knowledge as I can and just follow the footsteps of this program.”