Ankeny’s Brody Brecht continues to thrive under pressure.
Overcoming triple-digit temperatures and the distraction of more than a dozen scouts from MLB, Brecht pitched another gem on Thursday at Southeast Polk, allowing just one unearned run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings and recording 11 strikeouts as the fifth-ranked Hawks salvaged a split of a non-conference baseball doubleheader with a 3-1 victory.
“You just had to stay hydrated throughout the week,” Brecht said of the stifling conditions. “Drinking water was the biggest thing. It wasn’t easy–it started to get to me a little bit toward the end.”
Brecht (4-0) was relieved by Dylan Schlee after throwing 112 pitches. Schlee got the final two outs to earn a save after taking the loss in the opener of the twinbill.
“Brody had to get four outs in one inning, and that elevated his pitch count and he wasn’t able to finish the game,” said Ankeny coach Joe Balvanz. “But Schlee came in and finished the job. It was nice to see him bounce back and pick up the save.”
Brecht, who was ranked the 77th-best prospect in this year’s MLB draft earlier in the week, put on another show for the scouts in the crowd. The buzz surrounding the hard-throwing righthander started before the game, when the scouts huddled around the Hawks’ bullpen to watch Brecht warm up.
“It was like watching the lions at the zoo,” Balvanz said. “There was 15 to 20 people just around his bullpen.”
Brecht said he tries not to pay any attention to the scouts.
“I know they’re there and I try to zone them out,” he said. “Sometimes it’s tough when they all have their (radar) guns up there after every pitch you throw. But I do my best to just stay focused and control what I can control.”
Brecht outdueled Southeast Polk sophomore Ean McDaniel, who allowed just one earned run on five hits while going the distance. McDaniel took a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning before the Hawks rallied.
Ankeny tied the score in the sixth, then added two more runs in the seventh to improve to 14-6 on the season. The Rams dropped to 12-9.
“I was really impressed with Southeast Polk,” Balvanz said. “They’re scrappy and won’t back down. It was two good games.”
Brecht doubled and drove in a run to help his own cause. Jase Bauer tripled and had one RBI, and Ryan Crandall also knocked in a run.
Balvanz said Brecht has not been fazed by all the attention that he’s getting as the MLB draft approaches. The Iowa football and baseball recruit could be selected in the first few rounds, which would put him in position to receive a lucrative signing bonus if he decides to turn pro.
“He’s a physical specimen, but more than that he’s just an awesome kid,” Balvanz said. “He was signing autographs after the game for Southeast Polk kids. My nephews go there and Brody doesn’t know who they are, but they wanted a picture so he put his arm around them and smiled for the camera. That’s just who he is.”
Southeast Polk posted a 5-4 victory in the opener to snap Ankeny’s 10-game winning streak. The Rams rallied for three runs in the sixth inning to erase a 3-1 deficit.
After the Hawks tied the score in the top of the seventh, Southeast Polk plated the winning run off Schlee (2-2) in the bottom of the frame.
“We were ahead and Sammy (Andrews) was pitching really well,” Balvanz said. “But (the Rams) got up there and wore a couple pitches. Sammy just had one inning where he hit the wall, then we brought Dylan in and they had a guy who got a hit when it really mattered and walked off (with the win). We played well. We just couldn’t finish the job.”
Andrews received a no-decision after allowing four runs on four hits over the first 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and had six strikeouts.
Crandall went 3-for-4 and drove in a run for the Hawks, while Bauer went 2-for-2 with a triple. Weston Fulk went 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs.
Fulk blasted his team-leading fourth home run of the season.
“It was to the opposite field–an absolute shot into the wind,” Balvanz said. “I didn’t think there was a ball leaving the park all night, but he destroyed that baseball. He’s really swinging it well.”
Hunter Brown went the distance for the Rams, scattering nine hits. He also drove in two runs.
“We would have loved to get two (wins), but we’re happy that we got one,” Balvanz said. “Our goal is to get on another run. Our focus right now is to play well enough to get a No. 1 seed for substate.”