By Noah Gatsik | firstname.lastname@example.org
Every team has that one special player. For the Flagler Saints baseball team, that player is Jake Brandenberger. Currently entering the fourth and final year of his Saints career, Brandenberger is one of two players remaining from the freshman class of 2011 along with Andrew Castello.
“Andrew and I are the only ones left from freshman year?” Brandenberger asks. “I didn’t realize that. Guess it shows who the real alphas are.”
Brandenberger has been a solid contributor to the Saints since he arrived. As a freshman, he made an instant impact with 15 appearances and 12 starts. As a junior he had 16 appearances with 9 starts. He posted a team-leading 9-2 record while also leading the team with two complete games and a 4.34 ERA.
“I think last year everything came together for me,” Brandenberger said. “I got into that zone where you feel like you can get every batter out. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Now that he is entering the final year of his collegiate career, he is ready to take on a much larger role as a weekend starter for the team.
“To be honest, it is a great feeling knowing exactly what your individual role is on a team,” Brandenberger said. “During the last few years I didn’t know if I was going to be a starter or a reliever from week to week. Now that I have a defined role, I feel that it is much easier to relax and prepare for each and every game.”
What makes Brandenberger’s approach unique is his ability to relax his teammates while keeping them on their toes. Catcher Jimmy Leo, who catches Jake’s bullpen sessions, has experienced this firsthand.
“He is one of the funniest kids I have ever met,” Leo said. “He has this ability to bring humor out of any situation. He’s a guy that everyone loves to be around because you feel so relaxed. It’s almost like he constantly reminds us that it is really just a game. Sometimes I think that some players forget how much fun this game actually is.”
Brandenberger is the type of teammate you want to have. He seems to be the one that the new guys go to and the young guys look up to. Junior transfer Sam Komel noticed him immediately.
“I remember our first practice as a team that everyone was hovering and laughing around Brandenberger,” Komel said. “I didn’t even know his name and he was joking around with me that first day like I was already one of the guys.”
Komel said that for Brandenberger, it’s about coordinating the whole team.
“If you go up to him during a game and ask him what inning it is, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell you without looking at the scoreboard. He is too busy dancing around and trying to keep our team loose and pump us up,” Komel said. “He works hard, has great stuff and is probably the most liked guy on our team.”
Brandenberger has gotten off to a great start this season. In his first start against Paine College, Jake tossed 6 scoreless innings with a career high 11 strike outs.
“It was definitely a great way to get the season started,” Brandenberger said. “We just have to keep grinding and getting better because it is only going to get harder and harder from here.”