Freshman Bruso wows at UC Davis |

Freshman Bruso wows at UC Davis

It’s customary for incoming athletes to be treated like freshmen during their first year at the college level. Often by coaches. Especially by fellow players. Even by fans. The ‘rookie treatment,’ which usually includes mild hazing, practical jokes and unequivocal deference to upperclassmen, is as much a part of college baseball lore as the aluminum bat itself.

University of California, Davis freshman pitcher Greg Bruso appears to be breaking that mold, however.

Already a part of the Aggies rotation, Bruso has compiled a 3-0 record so far this season and is among the team leaders with a 1.20 earned run average. And, as the only freshman in seven years to make the Davis team, Bruso has not let UC Davis (12-6, 4-3 in conference) down.

“I didn’t expect to make the rotation. When I first came in here, I heard that a freshman hadn’t made it in seven years. The coaches asked me ‘do you want to play?” said Bruso, who has yielded just two earned runs in three starts. “I mean, they weren’t sure about it because I was the only freshman and they wondered whether I wanted to stay with the group. But I came here to play baseball, so I jumped at the chance.”

Bruso, a 1998 graduate of South Tahoe High, throws three types of pitches: a slider, changeup and a fastball. Not overpowering, Bruso’s fastball averages hits the radar gun in the mid- to high-80s.

“I try to hit my spots, stay on the corners. I’m not trying to throw it as hard as I can. I’m just trying to hit the glove,” said Bruso, the younger brother of former South Tahoe basketball standout Brian Bruso. “If you show the (umpires) that you can hit those spots, they’ll give you the calls all game.”

Bruso’s best performance may have been his most recent outing against Cal Poly Pomona. The precocious right-hander went six innings against the Broncos, scattering five hits and a walk without giving up an earned run.

The Aggies offense is averaging nearly nine runs per game, including an explosive 12-run clip in each of Bruso’s three starts. The team’s ability to put some prodigious numbers up on the scoreboard has made Bruso’s job a little easier.

“This last start I felt a lot better. I’m still nervous every time I pitch, but pitching at home with the kind of offense we have, it’s not as bad,” he said.

Like many freshman new to the college game, Bruso has had to make adjustments for the speed of the game.

“Everything is a lot quicker here. The guys are a lot bigger and it’s hard to blow the ball by them,” Bruso said. “I’ll really have to finesse it past them until I can get my fastball working better.”

While the rest of his freshman class are red-shirting this season, Bruso has been given a rare opportunity to contribute. And he has thrived in that situation.

The Aggies had an eight-game winning streak end in a 15-2 setback to St. Mary’s on Wednesday and are ranked No. 18 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II poll. The UC Davis pitching staff is led by junior ace Justin Reid, who finished third last season among all Division II pitchers with a 1.68 ERA.

Bruso said he appreciates the confidence UC Davis coaches have placed in him this early in his college career.

“The (coaches) believed in me, so they put me in the rotation right away,” said Bruso, who will pitch in the team’s next series against Cal State, Los Angeles. “I haven’t let them down yet and hopefully it can stay that way.”

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