When the big moments of the Arroyo Grande High baseball season presented themselves, Kyle Brown seized his opportunities.
The 6-foot-5 senior left-hander pitched a complete game and hit a home run in a 2-1 win over St. Joseph early in the season.
Then he had seven RBI, including a grand slam, to help win a 27-18 midseason slugfest against Righetti. The Eagles ultimately shared the PAC 7 title with the Warriors.
In the last game of the regular season, with the league championship hanging in the balance, Brown produced another complete game, striking out nine in a 3-1 victory against Atascadero ace Bryan Kirkpatrick.
Brown is this year’s Tribune County Player of the Year.
As the Eagles’ No. 1 starter, Brown finished with a 7-3 record and a 1.61 ERA.
He complemented his stellar pitching with a .295 batting average, a league-leading four home runs and a tie for the team high with 21 RBI.
He also had two saves and played a solid right field, using his athleticism to track down fly balls and his strong throwing arm to gun down baserunners.
“Obviously, on the mound, he was very dominant,” Eagles coach Brad Lachemann said. “We knew that all we had to do was get to the fifth inning with a lead, and he’d do the rest. His presence on the mound made everybody else play better.”
Brown, who earned the PAC 7’s MVP Pitcher award and an All-CIF-Southern Section honor in Division 2, struck out 90 batters in 78 innings this season to improve upon a junior campaign in which he struck out 60 in 68 innings. Last year, he finished with a 7-4 record and a 1.94 ERA.
His arsenal includes a fastball that reached 86 mph when clocked in a game at Paso Robles this season and a changeup that slithers away from right-handed hitters.
He also breaks off a knuckle curve that drops dramatically with late movement.
“I felt a lot more comfortable this year pitching,” Brown said. “I’m throwing harder. I was able to attack hitters instead of pitching around them.”
Entering the playoffs, Brown was hoping to finish with an ERA under 1.00 and was close to that mark.
But after pitching a complete game in a 6-1 home win over Burbank in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs, the Eagles ran into a juggernaut in Temecula Valley.
Brown had his worst outing of the season, giving up seven runs, six of them earned, in 3 1⁄3 innings against the team that was runner-up in the Division 2 section final.
“That would have been great to finish with an ERA under 1.00,” Brown said. “But we just fell apart. I didn’t give up a hit in the first three innings against Temecula Valley, and then they got it going. We could have won that game. But they were a good team.”
Last year, Lachemann didn’t use Brown as a hitter much, only sending him to the plate 10 times.
But his big lefty begged to hit regularly this year, and the move paid off.
“All of his four home runs came when they mattered,” Lachemann said. “They weren’t when we were up by five in the last inning kind of home runs. They were when we were tied or battling in games. They were huge at-bats.”
In the 27-18 win over Righetti, Brown not only hit a grand slam over the right-field wall but also crushed a ball off the fence with the bases loaded, clearing the bases. The hit almost gave him two bases-loaded bombs for the day.
Brown said the feeling of hitting a home run is one of the best in baseball.
“Just hitting it and watching it go over and jogging around, that’s fun,” Brown said. “Those are probably some of the last home runs I’ll be hitting. I may hit in college, but likely I’ll just be pitching.”
As for Brown’s future in baseball, he was set to attend the College of Southern Nevada, which offered him a scholarship after seeing him play on the SoCal Cardinals club team.
But recently, Cal State Bakersfield offered Brown a partial scholarship to play baseball at the Division I level.
He hasn’t decided which he’ll attend yet.
“It’s a really tough decision,” Brown said. “I knew that I didn’t want to settle for anything less than a Division I program. I’ll have to make up my mind pretty soon.”
To prepare for his college experience, Brown is pitching for the North County Indians, and he threw six scoreless innings in a game last week.
Former San Luis Obispo Blues pitching coach Mike Lara has worked with Brown over the past couple years, and says his consistency with his wind-up has improved.
“His fastball location and velocity have all improved,” Lara said. “He understands the game better. He mixes speeds well. The pro thing is always there. … Perseverance and continued growth as a ball player will be the keys to a pro career.”
Brown said that he has dreamed of playing professional ball since he was young.
He said a key will be continuing to boost his speed on his fastball and has a goal of hitting 90 mph.
“I have a two-seam fastball that fades away to righties,” Brown said. “But I’m not a heat thrower. I want to hit 88 and top out at 90 or even harder. But I want to even just hit 90.”
Kyle Brown’s second baseman, Zack Brown (no relation), said he was always ready because of Kyle Brown’s velocity and tail on his pitches that contributed to righties grounding balls his way.
“He pitches quickly, and when people came to bat, there was a lot of action,” Zack Brown said. “He has great tempo. It was crazy what he did this year. To help himself hitting and throw that well, that’s hard to do.”
Each Brown said the team chemistry made it an enjoyable season — one that helped them share responsibility and come together when they needed to.
“Someone’s mistake was everyone’s mistake,” Kyle Brown said. “We all knew what we wanted. We were all on the same page. I’ll miss my friends on the team.”
TRIBUNE ALL-COUNTY BASEBALL TEAM
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
P, OF — Kyle Brown, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
3B — Garrett Ball, Arroyo Grande, Jr.
P, OF — Chris Davidson, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
C — A.J. Cipolla, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
P, OF — Andy Garretson, Templeton, Sr.
SS — Garrett Giovannelli, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
C — R.J. Hassey, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
P — Bryan Kirkpatrick, Atascadero, Sr.
DH — Spencer Walsh, Templeton, Sr.
P, 1B — Corbin Meikle, Atascadero, Sr.
OF — Michael Frigon, Templeton, Sr.
OF — Joe Johnson, Atascadero, Jr.
P — Mac Lardner, Templeton, Fr.
2B — Zack Brown, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
1B — Dylan Azevedo, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
OF — Sinjin Todd, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
P — Jake Niezen, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
OF — Joey Benadiba, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
1B, OF, DH — Casey Muth, Arroyo Grande, Jr.
C — Taylor Tobin, Templeton, Sr.
OF — Rudy Binkele, Paso Robles, Sr.
OF, P — Scott Nichols, Nipomo, Sr.
C — Nathaniel Javine, Atascadero, Sr.
P — Dan Beavers, Morro Bay, Jr.
SS — Joey Hall, Mission Prep, Sr.
OF — Paul Ormonde, Arroyo Grande, Jr.
P, OF — Colt Caravalho, Morro Bay, So.
P — Robby Cano, Nipomo, Sr.
P, 2B — Quinten Raethke, Coast Union, Sr.
SS — Tyrus Yamagata, Templeton, Sr.
OF — Ethan Hicks, Atascadero, So.
P — Anthony Bosshardt, Mission Prep, Sr.
1P — Dan Ramirez, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
P, 1B — Mitchell Pendley, Templeton, Sr.
OF — Connor McQuaid-Pishione, Morro Bay, Sr.