LOS ANGELES—Tyson Brummett's list of victims reads like a who's who of college baseball's Friday starters. Winthrop's Alex Wilson. Southern California's Brad Boxberger. East Carolina's T.J. Hose. California's Tyson Ross. Cal State Fullerton's Wes Roemer.
"The Friday night game against Fullerton down there was a really big game for me, going up against Roemer," said Brummett, UCLA's senior righthander, of his career-high 10-strikeout performance against the Titans on Feb. 23.
When Brummett faced off with Arizona righty Preston Guilmet, the Wildcats' ace was a perfect 8-0. But after Brummett finished off his sixth complete game of the year, Guilmet's record had its first blemish of the season, while Brummett improved to 8-4, 2.76 with 83 strikeouts and 19 walks in 98 innings. Even after giving up 12 runs (eight earned) over 6 2/3 innings against Arizona State this past Friday, Brummett is still 9-4, 3.40.
Despite all of his memorable victories, UCLA coach John Savage and Brummett agreed that his best start might have come in a 1-0 loss against Miami and lefty Scott Maine. Brummett allowed only one run on three hits while striking out eight over 72⁄3 innings in that one.
The point is, Brummett has emerged as one of the nation's top Friday starters, capable of going toe-to-toe with anyone. A two-time draftee by the Giants out of Spanish Fork (Utah) High and again after his freshman year at Central Arizona Community College, Brummett transferred to UCLA for his junior year, where he settled into the Bruins' Sunday starter spot. He had a solid year but was not drafted, and he admitted it was a disappointment.
But rather than let his disappointment consume him, Brummett realized he had an opportunity to return to UCLA and make a name for himself as a Friday starter.
"If he goes in the 35th round and signs (as a junior), I don't think his pro career would have been what it's going to be now," Savage said. "It was a blessing in disguise that he wasn't drafted, and I'm talking about for himself. I'm not being selfish, I'm not talking about the UCLA baseball program. I'm really talking about I think it helped him and saved his career that he's back here for his senior year and he's been given the ball on Friday nights. I think he's going to be a legitimate pro prospect."
Brummett uses a true four-pitch mix, but Savage said he has improved on every one of his offerings since last year. His fastball has increased in velocity from the 86-89 mph range to the 88-91 area. His changeup has long been his No. 2 pitch, but he has improved his curveball and slider to the point that he is not afraid to any of his four pitches in any count. He's also improved the mental aspects of his game, and that might be the most important development of all.
"I thought there was some anxiety to his game as a junior," Savage said. "On the road, I thought he showed some anxiety in tough situations, he had a difficult time pitching out of problems at times. He has really handled those situations much better. He's the same guy regardless of where we go, and he's pitched out of problems much more. His preparation has been really, really good this year."
Brummett has increased his stamina and conditioning by working hard in the weight room and stepping up his running. He said between practice, school, baseball, weights and running, there's little time for much else, even in the entertainment Mecca of Los Angeles. But structure and discipline are the keys for Brummett. His schedule is so regimented that he even repeats the same pre-game jump over the white line on his way out to the mound before every start.
"That's kind of a thing that some people are kind of weirded out about," Brummett said. "What's the line jump about? I don't know. I've been doing it ever since junior college—it's my thing. It gets me out there and shows people I'm ready to go."
If the line jump didn't get that message across, his pitching certainly has.