Last week the Eastern Mennonite baseball team snapped a losing skid and jumped right into the heat of the ODAC playoff race with a doubleheader sweep. Junior Ryan Brewer (Martinsville, VA) played a huge part in that, pitching in each of the Royals’ game last week.
Coach Ben Spotts states that the consistency that Ryan gives his team as a closer makes him a valuable commodity, particularly in last week’s games.
“Ryan played very well and was instrumental in our success over Hampden-Sydney,” Coach Spotts explained. “He is a veteran on our pitching staff and physically and mentally able to handle pitching twice in the same day. His experience and performance on Saturday allowed us to win both games, and those wins were big for our program as we look to get into the ODAC Tournament.”
Ryan pitched 6.1 innings last week, going 1-0 with 1 save and a 1.42 ERA. On Saturday he retired all four batters to earn a save in the opener, then pitched the ninth and tenth to get the win in the extra-inning nightcap. EMU's closer entered in the fifth against Shenandoah on Wednesday and threw 3.0 innings to slow down SU's momentum. Ryan leads the ODAC with five saves on the season.
Reflecting on the doubleheader against H-SC on Alumni Recognition Day, Ryan states that he went into the games like he would on any other Saturday.
“It was nice to see some of the former players and coaches, and it felt even better to win in front of them,” he said.
During the second game on Saturday, Corey Willis hit a walk-off homerun in the tenth, pushing the Royals beat H-SC. Ryan says that he could feel the atmosphere change towards the end of the game, and was hoping for the game to turn towards the Royals’ favor.
“We went crazy,” he said of the walk-off. “We knew that something was going to happen soon, either for us or H-SC. Thankfully it was for us. I was so happy for Corey, he works hard each day and it was nice to see the hard work pay off for him. I was also happy for his homerun because that win kept us alive for a chance to be in the tournament. It was just awesome for the whole team.”
In his three seasons at EMU, Ryan has had to make the transition from a starter during his first year, to a closer now as a junior. While it was a challenge to change roles at first, he has found that he is starting to enjoy closing the game.
“I can throw more often and can do what is best for the team,” Ryan explained. “I enjoy being a closer a lot more, too. It is a lot less stress on my arm and it’s also more fun to come in the game late and shut the door so we as a team can hopefully enjoy wins.”
However, pitching more often as a closer has brought Ryan the challenge of trying to keep his arm healthy and to stay in good shape as the season goes on. He also adds that with the large majority of the team being underclassmen, keeping them in line has tested his leadership skills.
“It is a little challenging getting all the freshmen on board and pushing them to be the best they can be,” commented Ryan. “With such a large freshman class, it has been challenging to get them all focused at times, in the classroom and on the field.”
Going into this season Coach Spotts notes that Ryan has improved his secondary pitches, which have helped him to become a successful closer.
“He has always been good at locating a fastball and the development of his secondary pitches has played a big role in his success,” said Coach Spotts.
Ryan also prepared for the season by developing a third pitch to accompany his fastball and splitter.
“That third pitch has allowed me to get in better counts against hitters and have a better chance to get them out,” he said. “Aside from that, I made it a priority to keep my arm healthy.”
Finishing out the season, Ryan hopes to make it to the ODAC Tournament this year, and then again next season in his senior year at EMU.
-- by Savannah Olshove, Sports Information Intern