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College Signings: Rudy Brown to Pembroke

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
Talk to any baseball coach about 6-foot-5 left-hander Zachary “Rudy” Brown, and the word “potential” crops up every five seconds.
Really big kid. Really nice kid. Really competitive kid. Lots of potential. Just oozes potential.
When people harp about potential, it implies that someone hasn’t done anything yet, but Brown has done very good things already at South Rowan High and for South’s American Legion team.
Brown is doing nice things now at Surry Community College, but mostly it’s stuff no one hears about because he pitches in the little town of Dobson.
UNC Pembroke, which recently signed Brown, believes he can do good things for the Division II Braves in the Peachbelt Conference next season.
The Asheboro Copperheads, for whom Brown will hurl this summer, believe he can do really nasty things to hitters swinging wood bats in the Coastal Plain League.
“With that frame he has, with the movement on the ball he has, Rudy has a chance to be a dominating pitcher,” analyzed South Rowan High’s pitching coach Thad Chrismon, who was a star reliever at North Carolina. “You don’t see that many kids that can just take a game over, but Rudy has that potential.”
The feeling with just about every baseball person is that while Brown has been successful, he has only scratched the surface.
That’s because Brown has set the bar high. There have been nights when he’s looked like Sandy Koufax.
Opening day of his senior year, he struck out 11 Mooresville hitters ó in four innings.
There was a night in 2006 when Legion Area III champ Kannapolis sent up an all-star lineup against Brown, just about all right-handed, and couldn’t do a thing for seven innings. Catawba’s Ryan Query finally beat Brown with a short-porch homer in the eighth at Veterans Field. North Carolina masher Kyle Seager was the lone lefty in that Kannapolis lineup. Seager managed a single in five trips.
There was another night in the summer of 2006 when South’s Legion team was a big underdog at Lexington in the first game of the first round of the playoffs.
Lexington’s lineup started off with future Tar Heels Chaz Frank and Levi Michael. They were very young then and didn’t have a chance against Brown. Neither did the veterans who followed. Brown struck out a program-record 18, and no one in a solid lineup had a decent swing when Brown threw his curveball.
Brown first started turning corners, instead of cutting them, between his sophomore and junior years of high school.
“He worked really hard, decided to get himself in good shape and started making some big strides,” Chrismon said. “He really wanted to start digging down to see what he could do.”
Brown was 5-3 as a junior. Then he was 1-5 as a senior, despite great numbers (3.34 ERA, 71 strikeouts) in a great 4A league.
But it was in Legion ball that he made his mark ó as both a pitcher and a power hitter.
After his freshman year at Surry, he came home last summer for his last fling at Legion ball and led South to its best-ever record (26-14).
He was a lot more dominant than his 6-5 record implies. Three losses were to the powerhouses in Area III ó Rowan and Randolph. One loss came on an unearned run in a relief outing against Concord. The other loss was a 1-0 setback to Mocksville ace Jonathan McDaniel that was over before it got dark.
Brown struck out a program-record 86 batters and hit 10 homers to share a record with Daniel Wagner.
“Every time he hit a home run last summer, Rudy called to let us know or (South assistant) Kenny Simpson called to let us know,” Surry coach Mark Tucker said with a laugh. “Rudy still loves to tell our position players how to hit, but it’s all in good fun.”
Fans saw a different side of Brown in the summer of ’07. When he was younger, he set a few records for being laid-back. Last summer, he was an emotional leader for coach David Wright’s team.
Brown returned to Surry for his sophomore year, and while he hasn’t been fantastic, he’s been good. He’s made improvements with little things that make a big difference ó fielding his position, perfecting his pickoff move, refining his changeup.
He’s 3-3 for the Knights with one save. He’s struck out 41, while walking 17, in 33 innings. His ERA is 4.36.
“Rudy’s pitching at 84 to 86 miles an hour, and his bread and butter is still his curveball,” Tucker said. “When he’s at his best, he can be really dominant.”
Surry has sent a steady flow of players to UNC Pembroke, including current star pitcher Shawn Bumgarner and slugger Josh Bentley.
At Pembroke, Brown will play for Paul O’Neil ó but not the Paul O’Neill who played right field all those years for the Yankees.
“Pembroke should be a good fit for Rudy,” Tucker said. “And he should have a chance to go in there and pitch for them early.”
Chrismon, Wright, Surry’s coaching staff and South Rowan High head coach Linn Williams can all take a bow now that Brown is taking another step. They’re all proud of him and happy for his family.
A lot of people said the big kid wouldn’t make it this far, but he’s still going, and he has the potential to keep right on going.
“You look down the road two years, and you can see Rudy adding a couple of miles an hour,” Tucker said. “If he does that, you can see him getting the chance to keep playing baseball.”
The potential is there.

Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.

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