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Former Salem pitcher Brown transitions to college baseball

(Photo by John Kelley)

(Photo by John Kelley)

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(Photo by John Kelley)

ATHENS Although Georgia left-hander Jarrett Brown had a rough outing Wednesday night against Georgia Tech, the former Salem High School standout is enjoying his new life as a college baseball player.

In the Bulldogs' 8-6 loss to Tech, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Brown -- who hadn't pitched in 17 days -- worked a spotless fourth inning before surrendering two singles to begin the fifth. He was pulled and both of those runners subsequently scored, causing his ERA which was at 2.70 to jump to 4.09 for the season.

"It's still my responsibility to get those guys out," said Brown the day after the Tech game. "But things happen."

The evening wasn't a total loss, however, as Brown had a chance to visit with former Seminoles teammate Cameron Gibson, a freshman outfielder for the Yellow Jackets.

"It was great seeing Cameron," he said.

Starting slowly

In most major college baseball programs, freshman pitchers generally don't see a lot of playing time, and that's been the case for Brown, who has no decisions this year but has pitched 11 innings in 14 relief appearances, allowing 13 hits and five runs (all earned) to go with seven walks and six strikeouts.

"He's done OK," said Georgia coach Dave Perno of Brown. "He came in a little behind the eight ball because he wasn't here last summer. He did some good things in the fall, but was a little inconsistent, and that's how he's been. We've tried to protect him because I know that with him being a football-basketball-baseball guy, he's not as equipped and experienced to be where (Pete) Nagle or (Jay) Swinford or (Luke) Crumley is. But at the same time, I think he'll get there."

A three-sport star at Salem who pitched for coach Chad Kitchens, Brown was a two-time All-Region 8-AAAA selection in baseball and made the all-region team in football as well. In 53.2 innings pitched as a senior, Brown recorded a 5-4 record with a 2.48 ERA and 96 strikeouts.

He said he's making the adjustment to college baseball, thanks in no small part to the tutelage he's received from his seasoned Bulldog teammates.

"I've progressed a lot and I've learned a lot," said Brown, who has made Southeastern Conference appearances against Kentucky, Ole Miss and Florida. "I'm starting to learn more about the game of baseball, coming off playing three sports in high school, and I've learned a lot from my coaches, but more so (from) my teammates. Just being around them and talking to them has helped me learn more about the game.

"I've been able to work with some of the older guys, like Alex Wood and other pitchers on the staff, who have taught me a lot. Having that opportunity has been fantastic."

Brown said his best game of the season came on April 11 at Clemson, when he pitched a scoreless seventh inning in a game Georgia won 8-7. The first batter he faced reached base on an infield error and eventually advanced to third base before Brown ended the inning by inducing Tigers shortstop Jason Stoltz to line out to third.

"I'd have to say my best game was at Clemson because (Perno) had confidence in me to bring me in a clutch situation," he said. "It was a big opportunity to show what I had and contribute to the team."

Future dividends

While it's expected Brown will pay dividends for the Bulldogs in future seasons, Perno is not discounting the idea that he can help Georgia which last weekend went 1-1 against defending national champions South Carolina and closes out the season this weekend at Alabama before the sun sets on the 2012 campaign.

"He's gotten better," said Perno. "He's throwing strikes and he's got a good breaking ball and we definitely have big plans for him in the future. He's going to be good for us and I think he's got a chance to help us down the stretch."

Perno added that he's been pleased that while Brown hasn't worked a lot of innings, he's kept his head up and his head in the game.

"It hasn't been easy for him, but he's stuck with it and he's making steps and he's getting better," said Perno. "Even when he wasn't pitching, we kept him along and he kept making adjustments and inquiring about things he needed to do, and I'm proud of him for that persistence."

"I feel I've done a good job of dealing with adversity," added Brown. "In high school, I played every day and that's not happening now. I see that there are bigger things down the road ... I definitely feel I can make an impact this season. My individual goal is to make myself better to help my team in the long run. When it's my turn, I need to show my team I can help. Whenever I get my opportunity, I'll do what I have to do to make my team better."

Drafted in the 23rd round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, Brown said he's glad he decided to postpone a professional career for college.

"This is probably the best decision I've made coming out of high school and it's a great opportunity to play for such a prestigious university," he said.