Chase Brookshire embraces pitching in big moments.
During his four years at Belmont, he certainly encountered his fair share.
The left-hander from Chattanooga pitched in two NCAA Regionals. Against Oklahoma State in 2011, he allowed just one run on two hits in eight innings and the Bruins recored their first NCAA Tournament victory in any sport. The next year, he allowed just three hits and two earned runs to perennial power Oregon State in the Baton Rouge Regional.
And in the last start of his career, just last month in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, he threw a career-high 14 strikeouts to extend Belmont’s season.
“That gives me confidence going on to the next level to know that a lot of these guys I’m throwing against are going to be getting drafted,” Brookshire said. “If I’m having success against them on the field then that should translate for me on the next level as well.”
Brookshire is confident he’ll get a crack at the next level. He expects to hear his name called this weekend during the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which continues Friday and runs through Saturday.
Brookshire, 22, says he has talked to numerous regional scouts, including ones from the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres. He is trying to become the first Belmont player in three years to be drafted and the first Bruins pitcher to be selected since Blake Owen in 2005.
“I think I have four good, consistent years at Belmont,” Brookshire said. “The numbers kind of speak for themselves. They say pitching is always a commodity. I’ve improved every year and gotten smarter, gotten stronger, [gained] more velocity. There are a lot of guys coming out of high school or coming out of their junior year [of college] that are going to go for some big money. But I think what I offer is almost the intangible of knowing how to pitch and the experience of throwing at the collegiate level for four years and what that’s provided me.”
Brookshire leaves Belmont as one of the most successful pitchers in school history.
He tops the charts in career strikeouts (284), innings pitched (360) and starts (54). The 6-foot, 195-pounder also ranks second on the all-time wins list with 25. He finished his career with a 25-12 record and six complete games. As a senior, he went 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA in 11 starts despite missing nearly a month with an elbow injury. Opponents only hit .184 off of him as he was named to the All-OVC second team.
“By the end of his freshman year, you definitely knew this was capable for him,” coach Dave Jarvis said of Brookshire’s draft prospects. “You look at what he has done not only career-wise for our program but big games for our program and how well he has performed on big stages. It is a tremendous body of work.”
Jarvis hopes Brookshire won’t be alone.
He says scouts have contacted Belmont and showed up at games to watch closer Josh Davis and Jared Breen in addition to Brookshire.
An All-OVC first team selection, Davis finished his career with 13 saves, including 12 this season, to finish tied for seventh all-time. In 29 appearances this past season, the Fayetteville, Ga., native posted a 2.22 ERA. Davis, who also played in the infield and started as designated hitter, batted .293 with 12 doubles and 24 RBIs.
Breen bounced back after breaking his thumb last season. A reliable glove at short, the Marietta, Ga., native also showed some pop in his bat by hitting .292 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs.
“Those are the three that have gotten the most attention,” Jarvis said. “Whether they will or won’t be drafted is extremely hard to say. The draft is very fickle. Sometimes somebody will get drafted that you didn’t even expect. Somebody that you thought was a sure bet ends up not getting drafted. It is hard to say.”
But for Brookshire, just the notion of being drafted is hard to believe considering four summers ago he hadn’t planned on being at a Division I school.
Prior to his senior year of high school he verbally committed to Division III Birmingham Southern. Then Belmont pitching coach Matt Barnett stumbled upon him later that summer and saw a pitcher ready to shine in big moments – even as a freshman.
“Everything fell into place and felt right,” Brookshire recalls. “I didn’t really know what to expect coming into Belmont and a Division I program. I didn’t really have any expectations. Being able to start in a weekend rotation from week one was a blessing. That was awesome. I think just the overall experience of myself learning the hitters over time and working with Coach Jarvis and Coach Barnett, I guess all those factors together to be a better and smarter pitcher.”