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Baseball

St. Joseph's Cowan develops into staff ace, leader

Doug Gulasy
| Wednesday, April 13, 2016, 10:03 p.m.
St. Joseph’s Brodey Cowan delivers a pitch to Riverview during a game Friday, April 8, 2016, at Riverview High School.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
St. Joseph’s Brodey Cowan delivers a pitch to Riverview during a game Friday, April 8, 2016, at Riverview High School.

Brodey Cowan lost track of his pitch count in St. Joseph's recent Section 4-A game against Riverview.

Inning after inning, Cowan returned to the mound, with his pitch count reaching 80, then 90, then 100 and so on. After each inning, the Spartans' coaches asked the sophomore right-hander how he felt, and each time they got the same answer: He was fine.

“I felt strong,” Cowan said. “I got into a zone, and I wanted to do anything to come out with a win that game. I just wanted to do my best and do everything I could.”

Mission accomplished for that game as Cowan threw a career-high 127 pitches in St. Joseph's 3-2 victory over Riverview, a significant early-season win in the Spartans' attempt to make the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2000.

“It's a lot of pitches for a seven-inning game, and it's not something we normally like to do,” coach Mike Van Thiel said. “But he's a competitor. We checked with him every inning. I was a little worried he might have some soreness over the weekend, but his arm's fine. He just really wanted the ball.

“You like to see that, a guy that you can count on, that you know no matter how hot it is in the kitchen, he wants to be in there.”

It marks a change in Cowan from his freshman season.

He made a big first impression, pitching a no-hitter and striking out 11 in his first high school start against Summit Academy.

“It really opened up my eyes to what I could do and showed that I could compete at this level and it isn't something I should be intimidated by,” Cowan said.

But even as he paced the team in virtually every offensive category last season — including batting average (.526), on-base percentage (.609), hits (20) and RBIs (10) — and picked up both of the Spartans' victories on the mound, Cowan ceded leadership responsibilities to the team's upperclassmen.

“Last year, he played right away and his talents were obvious right out of the gate,” said Van Thiel, who was an assistant last season. “We would have liked him and kind of expected him to be more of a leader last year, but we didn't really see that. That's not really a surprise, (with him) being a freshman, just trying to learn his way around the team sometimes is tough enough. This year, it's been much improved where he absolutely is (a leader).”

Now one of St. Joseph's captains, Cowan is embracing the responsibilities that come with it.

“Honestly, I think (improving as a leader) was my biggest goal,” Cowan said. “As a freshman, I was just one of the team leaders, but we had a couple seniors who were experienced and who showed me what to do. I knew since they graduated, I would have to step up and come into that role.”

Statistically, Cowan picked up right where he left off, hitting .500 with six runs scored and striking out 10 batters in the win over Riverview.

Cowan is St. Joseph's staff ace, plays shortstop and hits in any of the top three spots in the lineup, so he slots naturally into a leadership position. But the sophomore is taking it a step further. He plays AAU baseball for the SportsZone Express based in Beaver County — a rarity among St. Joseph's players — and uses his knowledge to help teammates.

“I've just been playing forever, so it's just keeping my head in the game and knowing what's going on at all times,” Cowan said. “It helps (my leadership) a lot because I can with confidence tell people where they should be, what they should be doing and help others out who aren't as familiar with baseball and haven't had as much experience as me.”

Said Van Thiel: “It's almost like he's another coach on the team because he knows every situation. He just knows baseball. It's obviously a by-product of playing a lot of baseball from a very young age.”

The victory over Riverview — St. Joseph's first since 2006 — surpassed last season's Summit game as Cowan's most memorable.

The Spartans (2-5, 1-2) likely will need similar efforts from Cowan down the stretch to make the playoffs in a section that includes strong teams in No. 4 Vincentian and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.

“We need to win the games we know we can win,” Cowan said. “We have some tough competition with Vincentian and North Catholic, but I think the other teams in the section are all pretty close. If we win those games, I think we'll be in a good spot.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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