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Iowa dual-sport athlete Brody Brecht ‘way more mature’ as he prepares for second season on mound
Brecht ‘wants to be the best at everything he does’ as he switches gears from football to baseball for spring
IOWA CITY — Brody Brecht’s first and only start on the mound last year was at a critical point of the season.
Iowa was two wins away from a Big Ten Conference tournament title and consequently an NCAA Regionals berth. A loss to Michigan would end the Hawkeyes’ season, though.
Brecht walked two batters, gave up a hit and only recorded one out before being pulled in the first inning. It was only his second of 17 outings in which he surrendered multiple earned runs, but it happened at perhaps the worst possible time.
It was the first domino to fall in what turned out to be a 13-1 loss to end Iowa’s season.
“After that start, I realized I didn’t ever want to feel that feeling again — feeling like I let my team down and everything,” the dual-sport athlete from Ankeny said Wednesday.
The sting that can linger from a season-ending loss marked a turning point for Brecht, though, in the growth of the mental side of his game.
“He’s way more mature,” head coach Rick Heller said at the team’s media day. “He’s way more composed.”
Brecht, a former Iowa high school Gatorade Player of the Year, “lost track of how I wanted to do things” in 2022 amid high outside expectations for his first season pitching.
“I feel like last year I was trying to live up to the hype and try to meet everybody’s expectations for myself,” Brecht said. “I kind of lost track of how I wanted to do things.”
The outside expectations remain high in 2022. Brecht earned preseason third-team All-America honors from Baseball America, which polls MLB teams, after finishing last year with a 3.18 ERA and 44 strikeouts versus 25 walks in 22 2/3 innings.
But the sophomore is “just trying to be the best me.”
“I’m not worried about what everyone else thinks,” Brecht said.
It helps that Brecht is not the only Hawkeye dealing with this situation. Marcus Morgan, a sophomore from Iowa City West, was the first freshman to earn a spot in the starting rotation at the beginning of the season during Heller’s tenure at Iowa.
The former Gazette Athlete of the Year faced adversity, though, posting a 7.63 ERA in 10 appearances.
“We’ve gone from being really dominant in high school to having a lot of ups and downs last year,” Brecht said. “We’ve been kind of a shoulder for each other to lean on. … We definitely bonded over that.”
Brecht has focused on his breathing, too, as he works on the mental side of his game.
“Last year I was really quick to things,” Brecht said. “My three-counts were two-counts. It’s kind of easy to pick up on if you’re a runner.”
Brecht’s two-sport responsibilities restrict how many on-field changes he can make in an offseason.
“It just doesn’t give you much chance to really make any changes,” Heller said. “You’re trying to, but it’s really difficult to do any kind of wholesale changes when you’re trying to compete and win a game.”
Pitching coach Sean McGrath emphasized the need as a coaching staff to “understand that he is getting workload elsewhere.”
“We just have to manage things like his conditioning and what he could take in in a single day,” McGrath said. “It’d be nice to have him built up as a typical starter right now — that’d be awesome — but we understand that it’s going to be a little bit more of a slow-moving process for him.”
Heller has taken notice of Brecht “working hard on his own” and frequently coming into the baseball offices, though, even during football season.
McGrath described Brecht as the “ultimate competitor.”
“He wants to be the best at everything he does, which is awesome,” McGrath said. “That’s why he’s able to do what he does. … It comes with challenges in terms of buildup and preparation, but he jumped in here and acclimated quite well so far.”
A successful season, Brecht said, would include winning the Big Ten title, playing in a regional and going to Omaha — the site of the College World Series.
Should another situation arise like in the Big Ten semifinals, a more mature Brecht will be on the mound.
“It’s a race to maturity here in college,” Brecht said.