Brand helps Central Arkansas make NCAAs

By ROBBIE ROBERTSON,

Former Newton County standout Will Brand just keeps on finding a way to get batters out.

After winning a national championship at Jones County Junior College, Brand took his talents to Central Arkansas.

After playing in the Junior College World Series with Jones, Brand admitted there was a change of pace at the Division I level.

“When I first got there and played the first game of the year, it caught me by surprise by how fast the game was,” Brand said. “I realized how fast the game was at the higher level. And it doesn’t matter who you play, you can get beat by any team at that level.

“And I would say it’s more time consuming, it’s more of a job. You have to take care of your classes a week in advance. You have to stay on top of your schedule. They tell us we are big boys and you have to take care of your business or you aren’t going to pass.”

The Bears got off to a slow start on the season. After winning four of six games, the Bears lost 10 straight contests, getting swept by NCAA tournament teams Missouri State, Vanderbilt and McNeese State. But the Bears rebounded and finished the season with a 34-26 record and made the finals of the Southland Conference Tournament, losing to Sam Houston State 9-4 in the finals. But Brand said the highlight of the season was beating Oklahoma State.

“I thought we started off hot and were playing well,” Brand said. “Then we roll into Missouri State, which is in a Super Regional, and they took the series from us. Then we went to Vanderbilt and they were just better than us. Then we played three at McNeese State and they were in the regional finals with LSU. So, we played some good competition.”

Brand said he spent the majority of the season in the bullpen. Brand had a 4-1 record with a 3.86 ERA. He won all four games that he started and pitched 46.2 innings, mainly out of the bullpen. He showed excellent control with 37 strikeouts and 19 walks and didn’t give up a home run and had just one wild pitch.

“I was the first lefty out of the pin, the guy that has to come in and eat up some innings,” Brand said. “I got some spot starts along the way. I got four starts and won every one of those. I think the highlight of the year for me was against Arkansas-Little Rock. That’s our big rivalry and I went eight innings against them and threw only 86 pitches and got the win there. In the Southland semifinals, I pitched six innings against Houston Baptist and gave up just two hits and one run.”

Brand said he will spend most of the summer with the East Coast Sox organization, coaching their 15-year-old team. Brand said he hopes to be a college coach one day.

“I don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity to pitch professionally,” Brand said. “It seems like they are looking for guys with more velocity and I’m a guy that’s going to change speeds and throw my slider to get you out. But I would like to be a college coach one day. But right now, I just want to enjoy what may be my final year to play baseball.”