Fresno City College coach Ron Scott had a simple message for Connor Brogdon to start the 2015 season.
“To be the guy,” Scott recalled. “To be better at the end.”
Brogdon is taking those words to heart, from the beginning, on through midseason and now into the playoffs — a near-perfect run for the ace who along with the team still has one major goal remaining.
The sophomore right-hander gets the call today as the Northern California second-seeded Rams try to extend their bid for a state championship when they host No. 10 Ohlone in a best-of-three Super Regional. First pitch is 3 p.m. at John Euless Ballpark. The series winner moves on to sectionals, the final step to qualify for the state final four at John Euless Ballpark.
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Brogdon has done little wrong the past two seasons. He is 9-0 with a 1.85 ERA, earned Central Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year honors and is a victory away from becoming the school’s first 10-game winner since Ben Whitmore went 11-2 in 2008. He was 4-0 in 11 games (nine starts) in 2014.
But he’s also quick to share credit, whether it is with pitching coach Eric Solberg or his teammates in the field.
“I owe a lot of my success to Coach Solberg and the way he calls the game for me,” said Brogdon, who prepped at Liberty High-Madera Ranchos. “He takes a lot of pressure off by calling all the right pitches and I haven’t had to shake him off once.
“My defense has been solid all year long and I know that they can get to just about any ball put in play, making it a lot easier on me. It’s also a lot easier to pitch when I’m up a good deal of runs thanks to the offensive support I’ve gotten all year. When I have a big lead I pitch with more confidence and don’t stress as much over trying to get every single hitter out because I know I can give up some hits, runs here and there and still be all right.”
Rams sophomore closer Shane Desmond, dominant in his own right with a state second-best eight saves, said he has learned from Brogdon and likes the composure his teammate shows on the mound.
“He has stepped up and pitched well in every game he has started,” Desmond said. “It seems like he is always on his A game. He paces himself very well throughout the game and that’s what I’ve picked up from him.”
Brogdon appears to be heeding the preseason message from his coach, closing the regular season by going 6-0 in the CVC for the runaway conference champion Rams.
“Good competitor,” Scott said. “When he’s on, he’s tough to beat. He gives us a chance to win every time he steps on the mound.”
Not bad for a guy who doesn’t light up the radar gun. Brogdon said he can’t throw his fastball past most hitters, looking instead to locate the ball well and counter hitters’ reactions with “good off-speed (stuff) and use the fastball to set those pitches up.”
And he fully expects that to continue today, with that final goal in mind.
“Really focused,” Brogdon said. “Getting to the state championship and putting a ball on the (trophy) wall.”