Jul 02, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Exactly two decades ago, Scott Brown graduated from Liverpool High School, wondering where his journey in baseball would take him.
As it turned out, it would land him in the highest level of college baseball, and last Wednesday night in Omaha, Nebraska, Brown, now a seasoned pitching coach, was an integral part of Vanderbilt University’s first-ever national championship in any male sport.
Growing up as part of a large and active family in the Central New York sports scene, Brown made his mark in the strong Liverpool baseball program, using that as a stepping stone to a college career that began at Montclair State (New Jersey) and continued closer to home, at SUNY-Cortland.
Not only did Brown pitch his way to second-team All-American honors by going 9-1 in the 1999 season, he found success in his personal life, too, meeting his future wife, Mary, at Cortland. They now have three children – a son and two daughters.
Just a year after graduating from Cortland, he returned to his alma mater as a pitching coach where, for four seasons, the Red Dragons were a constant contender, peaking with a 35-11 mark in 2003. They made the NCAA Division III tournament each year Brown guided the pitching staff.
That, along with professional work coaching during the summers with the Cortland Apples (2001-02) and Sanford Mariners (2002-04), drew attention from St. John’s University. Brown was named as the Red Storm’s pitching coach in 2004, beginning a nine-year tenure in Queens.
Year after year, St. John’s stood at or near the top of the Big East Conference, and Brown’s work had a lot to do with it. All told, 15 different Red Storm pitchers would sign professional contracts and four of them – Rob Delaney, Craig Hansen, Anthony Varvaro and Scott Barnes – would make it all the way to the Major Leagues.
And this led to Nashville, Tennessee. Brown was hired as Vanderbilt’s pitching coach prior to the 2013 season, where he would work under head coach Tim Corbin. Already a powerhouse in the Southeastern Conference, the Commodores had made a couple of College World Series appearances (including one in 2011), but had never won a national title.
In 2013, Vandy went 54-12, with Brown’s pitchers posting a team earned run average of 2.76. The Commodores reached the Super Regionals, only to fall to Louisville, one step short of Omaha.
A year later, Vandy returned to the NCAA tournament with a 51-21 mark. Again, Brown’s pitchers were stingy, finishing with a 2.90 ERA as Walker Buehler, with a 12-2 record, led the staff.
In regional play in Nashville on May 30 to June 1, the Commodores were a perfect 3-0, knocking off Xavier and Oregon, and then hosted a best-of-three Super Regional against Stanford on June 6-8.
Against the Cardinal, Vandy won the first game 11-6 and Stanford took the second game 5-4 to even things up, but the Commodores rolled through the decisive third game 12-5 and advanced to the College World Series.
Once in Omaha, Vandy quickly got into the winner’s bracket, claiming a rematch of its 2013 Super Regional with Louisville 5-3 on June 14, and the knocking off UC Irvine 6-4 on June 16.
Now, to reach the finals, the Commodores simply had to beat Texas, but a 4-0 defeat pushed Vandy into an elimination-game rematch with the Longhorns. That game went 10 innings, but Vandy pulled it out, 4-3, on Tyler Campbell’s bases-loaded infield hit, and now was in the best-of-three final round against Virginia, another team seeking its first-ever NCAA baseball title.
The first game on June 23 proved wild, with Vandy scoring all of its runs in the third inning to take a 9-2 lead, and then watching Cavaliers scored six unanswered runs, but the Commodores held on to win, 9-8. Unfazed by this, Virginia claimed the second game 7-2 a night later to even up the series.
Fittingly, the final game on June 25 would hinge on the work of Brown’s pitching staff. Carson Fulmer started and shut out Virginia until the sixth, when the Cavaliers erased Vandy’s early 2-0 lead with a pair of runs to tie it.
In the top of the eighth, Vandy’s John Norwood hit a solo home run to put his team on top, 3-2, putting reliever Hayden Stone in line for the win after his 1 2/3 innings of scoreless work after replacing Fulmer.
More tension followed in the bottom of the eighth, when Adam Ravenelle, relieving Stone, loaded the bases with one out, only to escape with a forceout at home and a groundout. An inning later, Ravenelle struck out Daniel Pinero, and Vanderbilt had won it all.