Even without his best stuff, when conditions are far from ideal, Andrew Bruss is the man Aurora Central wants on the mound.
“He’s just a horse when he goes out there,” Chargers coach Sean Bieterman said.
Bieterman hitched his wagon and rode Bruss into the seventh inning on a frigid Wednesday afternoon in Aurora. Bruss struck out 10, allowed two hits and two walks, and came an out shy of a complete game in out-dueling Plano’s Shawn Cochran 1-0.
“I love being out there every minute of every day,” Bruss said. “Whether it’s 30 degrees out there or 60 and sunny, I’m going to do the best I can.”
Bruss (2-0) went 7-3 as a junior last spring, emerging as a solid No. 2 behind Beacon-News Player of the Year Matt Miller for an ACC team that won 27 games and a regional. Now he’s the man.
Bruss said he made a few mechanical adjustments to his delivery, and dropped 20 pounds over the summer. His fastball was clocked at 86 miles per hour then, and he said he now can touch 88. He’s also added a slider.
He reached back for that extra gas Wednesday to strand eight Plano baserunners – six in scoring position – overcoming two early hit batters and two walks. Bruss seemed to get stronger as the game wore on, striking out the side in the fourth inning and fanning two in the seventh.
“He’ll tell you that he didn’t have his best stuff today, but he competed,” Bieterman said. “He’s got a lot of life on that fastball. He’s at his best when he’s locating it, but it’s nice to be able to go to the well when you need it.”
ACC (5-1) scratched across the game’s only run in the second inning.
Ryan Poplawski walked with one out. Courtesy runner Victor Franco took third on Mike Malawski’s single and scored on a Jared Smith fielder’s choice.
Malawski reached base three times for the Chargers.
Cochran (0-1) was stingy from there, striking out two while allowing five hits. He cut down a Chargers runner at the plate on a squeeze bunt in the fourth.
“He did a nice job,” Plano coach John Parpet said. “He was throwing three pitches for strikes, he let our infield make plays behind him and he competed.”
Much like a 14-8 loss to Somonauk on Tuesday, Parpet said his team was missing that one extra hit. Plano dropped to 1-2.
“We let them off the hook,” Parpet said. “We had two to three opportunities where we didn’t get the big hit when we needed it.”
After Bruss struck out the first two batters in the seventh, Plano’s Luke Romano reached on an error. Bieterman summoned Matt Rahn to relieve Bruss, and the ACC lefty dropped in a full-count curveball for a called third strike to end it.
“I was confident that Bruss could get that batter there, but he’d thrown a lot of pitches. I’m not going to jeopardize the rest of the season for an April game,” Bieterman said. “Matt came in and did a nice job closing the door. We have a lot of options on the mound.”