May 7, 2009

A Look Back at the 2009 Season

May 7, 2009

Providence, R.I. - The Brown baseball team recently wrapped up a terrific 2009 season, which saw a number of memorable games for the Bears, who finished at 24-19-1. Highlights of the season included a near perfect home record at 16-1-1 and a school record for Ivy League wins with 15.

Brown kicked off the season with one of the toughest opening schedules in recent history, playing four teams that were ranked among the best in the country. Due to the Rhode Island weather, the Bears were also forced to play the entire first month of their schedule on the road, including trips to South Carolina, Alabama, and California. As a result, Bruno's early record did not reflect the talent of the squad, going 3-9 in the first 12 games. Those contests were not without some successes, however, most notably a stunning 20-8 victory over Pepperdine, which came into the game ranked seventeenth in the country.

Once Ivy League play began, though, Brown's fortunes took a dramatic upturn. Opening the league slate on the road against Cornell and Princeton, the Bears went 3-1 on the weekend, doubling their win total in just two days, and averaged seven runs a game despite the cold weather. The hot streak continued the following week, when Brown opened their home schedule with an April Fool's Day doubleheader against URI. The Bears continued at their impressive offensive clip, scoring seven runs in each game to come away with a comeback win and a five-inning tie.

After a loss on the road at Bryant snapped their win streak, the Bears started a new one with a home sweep of Ivy rivals Penn and Columbia. Brown's bats were hot all weekend, as the team belted one home run after another and scored an incredible 48 runs over the four games. The Bears then evened the season series with Bryant at home in a mid-week game, beating the Bulldogs 8-6 to win their fifth in a row.

However, the following weekend proved to be a turning point in the season, as the Bears went 1-3 in a four-game series against Dartmouth in Hanover. Though all four games were close, the Big Green's advantage in the series gave them a three-game margin that Brown would be fighting to make up for the remainder of the season. This was particularly significant because of the Ivy League playoff format, in which only one team from each division makes the postseason. Though Brown would go on to finish five games ahead of Cornell, the Gehrig division champion, they would need to pass Dartmouth to pick up the playoff berth.

Bruno bounced back quickly from the Dartmouth series, going 2-1 in midweek non-conference games, and entered the next weekend facing a pressure-packed Harvard series. Playing perhaps their best baseball of the season, the Bears took all four games from the Crimson, as the pitching staff allowed just eight total runs, and Bruno won by a combined margin of 22-8. With the wins, Brown pulled to within two games of Dartmouth, as Yale stole a game from the Big Green.

The Bears then wrapped up their Ivy League schedule with a home-and-home series against Yale, needing to make up two games on Dartmouth to give themselves a shot at the postseason. After splitting on the first day to remain even with the Big Green, the Bears swept Yale in the second doubleheader, doing everything they needed to. However, Dartmouth was able to once again pick up a split with Harvard, edging out Brown by a single game. Brown's 15-5 league record was the best in program history though, narrowly beating 2007's 14-6 mark, when the Bears won the Ivy League title. Bruno then wrapped up the season with a 2-1 record in a three-game home series with Bryant.

A number of players had terrific individual performances for the Bears in 2009, particularly those in the senior class. In his final season, Robert Papenhause hit everything that came his way, leading the team with a .377 batting average, and getting on base at a .460 clip. Classmate Matt Nuzzo was also impressive, hitting .324 and leading the team in doubles, home runs, and RBI's while starting every game. Seniors Dan Shapiro and Steve Daniels also made a formidable duo in the outfield, hitting .343 and .314 respectively. Daniels also added 23 stolen bases, making him a constant threat as the leadoff hitter, and was named to the CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District team after the season. The squad also received an infusion of young talent, as sophomore Pete Greskoff tied for the team lead in home runs at 11, and rookie Graham Tyler made an immediate impact by batting .313 and solidifying the infield defense for the Bears. Following the season Tyler was given the Joe Paterno '50 Award, presented annually to Brown's outstanding male freshman.

On the mound, the Bears were led by sophomore Mark Gormley, who started nine games for Brown and compiled a 4.55 earned run average. In his nine starts, Gormley threw four complete games, and wracked up a 6-2 record. He also picked up a team-high 50 strikeouts, and was named the Ivy League Pitcher of the Week during the season. Fellow sophomore Matt Kimball was also impressive in his first season as the closer, leading the team by a wide margin with 23 appearances, and picking up ten saves, tying the Brown career saves record in a single season. Kimball was untouchable at times, finishing second on the team in strikeouts at 49 despite throwing just 34.2 innings on the season.