By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
It’s hard to top a junior season in which you hit .440, bring in 26 runners and belt one home run.
Yet Clear Lake senior Cole Brodnansky bettered himself in just about every category this season, hitting .465, getting 37 RBIs and swatting four homers. He also stole 29 bases on 30 attempts and was the Cardinal’s’ defensive rock behind the plate.
For those numbers, and for the leadership Brodnansky provided the Cardinals who went 26-1 this season, he is All-Empire Small School Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
Aside from the numbers, Clear Lake coach Zane Jensen said Brodnansky did the things a player needs to do to improve their game and lift the team along with them.
“Number one? His work ethic,” Jensen said.
Jensen said it’s typical to see Brodnansky working with his dad Derek after practice or heading south to work with a private coach. He constantly works on his game and pushes to get the most out of every practice, Jensen said.
“It’s a combination of things — leading by example, having guys see you there early, having guys see you there late, having guys see you not be one to take things lightly,” Jensen said.
Brodnansky, who is headed to Santa Rosa Junior College next year, credits coaches Joey Gomes and Rick Moreno for elevating his game. But special notice goes to his dad, Derek, who has helped him with “pretty much anything and everything I’ve gone to with baseball and academics and beyond that. He’s been there for me to work through it all.”
With a stellar season which saw the Cardinals go undefeated until losing 7-3 to Head-Royce of Oakland in the North Coast Section semifinals, Brodnansky said that final game cannot cast a pall over what the team did as a unit all season long.
“It was very disappointing, but we are not going to let one loss dictate the season,” Brodnansky said.
What Brodnansky does like to dictate is the game from behind the plate.
“I like that aspect of catching — you control the game, you get to touch the ball every pitch, you get to see the whole field from where you are sitting, you get to see what happens and you get to be a part of every single play,” he said.
Crucial to a catcher’s job is being in sync with the pitcher. That was made a little easier for the Cardinals this season, as there were 11 seniors and four juniors on the squad — most of whom had played together for years.
So steady behind the plate was Brodnansky that coaches typically allowed the senior to call pitches directly to the guy on the mound.
“I’m very grateful the coaches trusted me,” he said. “There were very few moments when the pitching staff and I weren’t on the same page.”
And when that is working, there is nothing better, Brodnansky said.
“This is probably one of the closest groups I have ever been with, probably in my life,” he said. “When you are this close with guys, you can joke around …… when you play relaxed, you play better.”
It would be hard for Brodnansky and the Cardinals to play any better.
They won the North Coast League I handily, always keeping on eye on the goal of making a deep playoff run.
“I was very proud of this team and what we accomplished,” he said. “We set out a goal this year, before even practice officially started —- we wanted to go further in playoffs than we did last year. We did that, but once the season started developing and there came a point where we didn’t want to lose. We didn’t want to lose one game.”
That loss finally came in the NCS semifinals — too soon for Brodnansky and his teammate, but the senior remained philosophical and credited Head-Royce with playing a stellar game.
“They were a good team and they definitely showed up to play that day,” he said.
For Brodnansky, the new target is a place in the Bear Cubs lineup next season.
“I’m preparing the entire summer to get 100 percent prepared,” he said.
You can reach Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield.