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Alonso's Brandy leads with his bat and seniority

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Thu. March 24, 2011 | Eduardo A. Encina

Alonso's Brandy leads with his bat and seniority

BRANDON — Every baseball coach’s pregame ritual of filling out the lineup card can be as maddening as it is mundane, especially when the bats aren’t clicking.

Though the Alonso baseball team’s run to back-to-back state tournaments was built around stellar pitching and solid defense, coach Landy Faedo always knew his batting order would suffice with enough big hits.

But this season, with just three returning starting seniors, Faedo has reached the midseason mark still trying to find the right roll call of kids to get the Ravens back to Port St. Lucie.

So when the Ravens needed a win Tuesday against Class 6A-8 rival Brandon, Faedo switched it up and turned to one of his most dependable players — placing senior Matt Brandy in the leadoff spot.

Brandy, who hit in the No. 3 spot the past two seasons, responded with a 3-for-5 night, including a three-run homer, a double and five RBIs.

Finally Faedo may have found the right mix. His bottom of the order has been getting on base, and placing Brandy up top actually offers more RBI opportunities for him.

“At the start of the game, it feels different,” said Brandy, who took a 0-2 hanging curveball over the leftfield fence Tuesday. “You take more pitches. You can’t be as aggressive.”

On the season, Brandy, a St. Pete College recruit, has been the Ravens’ most dependable bat, hitting a team-high .444. In his past seven games, he’s hitting .500 (12-for-24).

“He’s been one of our big hitters for three years now,” Faedo said. “He’s so steady. You know what you’re going to get day in and day out. You’re going to get quality at-bats. He’s going to get his hits.”

On Alonso’s past state tournament teams, Brandy has been a quiet leader. Last year’s senior-laden team, with middle infielders Tyler Ding and Tito Martinez, had plenty of leadership. Playing beside them at third base last year, he stuck to his role.

But this season, as one of the three returning starting seniors (pitcher Jose Fernandez and second baseman Chris Mejia are the others), he knows success might depend on him becoming more vocal.

“Seniors always have to step up,” he said. “Right now, we have me, Jose and Mejia. We all have to step up.

“It feels a little different playing with all those guys for two years and now having all these new faces. But as far as the game goes, it’s not really any different. It’s still the same goal every year.”

Brandy has also moved over to anchor the infield at shortstop. He will still play third in college, but Faedo said Brandy is probably the most consistent outfield thrower he’s had at Alonso, which says a lot given the defenses he has coached. So moving Brandy’s steadiness to short was a no-brainer.

But Alonso making it back to state will hinge on recapturing those timely hits of the past two seasons. But Brandy believes the Ravens have the ability to get back to Port St. Lucie.

“We have the talent,” he said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t come together with the bats. We have a guy like Jose who can shut teams down most of the time. If we get the bats going, we can definitely make a run.”

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