Brown Getting It Done Heading Into NCAAs

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Brian Brown figured he would spend his freshman year in a supporting role on North Carolina State's staff as it tried to replace high draft pick Carlos Rodon.

Instead, the freshman has developed into the Wolfpack's top pitcher heading into the NCAA Tournament.

The 6-foot, 170-pound lefty ranks among the national leaders in ERA and has allowed just two earned runs in his last six starts for the Wolfpack (34-21), the No. 2 seed in the Fort Worth Regional.

"He's pitched good all year," coach Elliott Avent said. "You don't have an ERA like he's got and have bad outings. ... It's just more noticeable now and it's been bigger games now, but it's kind of the way he's pitched all year."

N.C. State faces third-seeded Stony Brook on Friday in its regional opener, where TCU is the host school and top seed.

The Glenmore, Pennsylvania native has a 1.72 ERA — tied for 20th nationally — and has allowed 14 earned runs in his 14 starts this season. Along the way, Brown (7-3) has been a steady starter who routinely pitches into the sixth and seventh innings while avoiding short bullpen-taxing outings.

Rodon routinely overpowered batters as the Wolfpack's ace before becoming the No. 3 pick in last year's draft and joining the Chicago White Sox. Brown is different, his focus more on location and movement than velocity.

"I think it's just going back to the way I know how to pitch and usually have been pitching," Brown said. "In high school that's what I did — just throw strikes."

Brown hasn't given up two earned runs in a game since allowing three in a no-decision at Boston College on March 21.

"He's definitely what you call a pitcher," sophomore catcher Andrew Knizner said. "He knows how to pitch. He knows how to get hitters out. And the thing that makes him dangerous is he can throw any pitch in any count and throw it for a strike."

Brown said he entered the season expecting to maybe work as a midweek starter then pitch out of the bullpen during the weekend. But by April, Brown frequently found himself taking the mound to open weekend series in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

He ended the regular season by allowing two hits and striking out seven in 5 1-3 scoreless innings to beat Louisville, the No. 3 national seed in the NCAAs.

He followed that with six shutout innings in last week's ACC tournament against Notre Dame for his fourth straight victory.

Brown shrugs off questions focusing on him or whether he's N.C. State's top pitcher, saying "one guy doesn't make up a whole staff." His teammates, however, know Brown's steady play is a big reason they're back in the postseason.

"What he's been able to do for us this year is incredible," senior Logan Ratledge said. "We've been riding on his back like we did Carlos for the past two years. He's stepped up and taken that role for us, and we're really excited about that."


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