High School : : General
Friday, April 05, 2013

Brothers, Bronco bombs lift BT

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The power surge fans experienced Thursday at Terry Park on the opening night of the Perfect Game High School Showdown had nothing to do with the lightning strikes the area experienced earlier in the day.

Instead, it had everything to do with a couple of brothers with the last name of Roberts and a young sophomore with the first name of Bronco who swing some heavy lumber for Blessed Trinity Catholic School out of Roswell, Ga., one of the eight teams -- and one of four out of Georgia -- competing at the Showdown.

Senior Sam Roberts led off the game with a solo home run to right field in the top first, his sophomore brother, Cody, followed suit with a solo shot to left in the fourth and sophomore Bronco O'Brien outdid the both of them with a grand slam in the sixth. It all added up to a 9-2 win over Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.) and a great start to the Showdown for the Titans.

"We kind of showed a little bit of power and short game and we pitched well; we executed the game pretty well (Thursday) night," Titans 11th-year head coach Andy Harlin said on Friday. "We were confident coming in and these work real hard. We have nine seniors and a lot of them have had varsity experience since their freshmen and sophomores years, so we felt really coming into the season about our leadership."

The Titans improved to 2-0 at the Showdown on Friday with a 4-0 win over Florida's Montverde Academy. Sam Roberts has an RBI triple in the bottom of the second as BT scored two runs in the first and two in the second.

Playing spring break baseball in Florida isn't new to the nine seniors on the roster. Sam Roberts recalled traveling to Tampa and Miami for games two years ago during his sophomore season and especially remembered what he called the "incredible" and "awesome" competition the Titans faced on that trip.

"So I knew this trip was definitely going to be big, and the Florida teams never disappoint; it's always fun playing them," Sam said. "(Thursday) night was just another one of those teams that (provided) just awesome competition."

The start of Thursday night's game was delayed an hour because of a fairly strong afternoon thunderstorm, but while it was unusually cool and damp at first-pitch, Harlin said it was the best night for hitting his team had played on all spring.

"What's funny is, we've been playing games in 30-something degree temperatures, so I think these guys were just coming out of their cages and hitting the ball and it travels a little bit; not like in that freezing cold air," he said. "It was nice to play a game when it wasn't crazy weather."

The playing conditions certainly seemed to suit the Roberts' brothers -- and O'Brien and senior Georgia Tech recruit Keenan Innis, who was 3-for-3 with an RBI -- just fine. Sam Roberts, an uncommitted 2013 who is ranked a "high follow" by PG, ended up 2-for-3 with the leadoff home run, a single, walk, RBI and three runs scored in the opener.

"I was going in there ready to start the game off good, and he threw me an outside fastball and went with it with all I had," Sam said. "I knew it was deep and I was running around and it happened to get over (the fence). It was a pretty good start to the game. It was awesome."

It was pretty much the same story for younger brother Cody, a top 1,000-ranked prospect in the 2015 national class. Cody finished 2-for-3 with the home run, two RBI and one run.

"I hadn't been playing catcher but our catcher just got injured, so that was my first night behind the plate," Cody said. "I'm just getting back into it, but I felt pretty good last night and it's good to play some good competition; those guys were bringing it in there pretty good. I felt real confident at the plate last night and when I hit that home run it just felt real good."

Cody's home run actually tied the game at two and the Titans took a 3-2 lead on Innis' RBI single in the fifth. Blessed Trinity blew the door open with a six-run sixth that included O'Brien's grand slam, one of 10 BT hits during the game. The Titans also got a combined two-hit, nine-strikeout performance from left-hander Brian Kehner and righty Ryan Young, but the offense seemed to steal the show.

"We take a lot of pride in not just waiting around for home runs but also being a team that can push runners around if we've got to play the short game," Harlin said. "But we've got guys that hit the gaps and knock it over the fence, and we think we can put runs up in different ways."

The Roberts brothers, who are from Johns Creek, Ga., said they are enjoying playing with each other for the perhaps the last time in their careers. They played together last year, as well, when Sam was a junior and Cody a freshman playing up on the varsity.

"I  like it; it's pretty cool," Cody said. "Sometimes we get a little mad at each other, but other than that it works our pretty cool. I definitely look up to him and he's who I get everything from. I've been going to field with him since I was younger and I've just been competing with him my whole life. It just kind of pushes me."

Sam agreed with the "cool" part of the brother-to-brother baseball relationship.

"It's pretty cool because I remember going to his games and watching from the outside as a fan," he said. "Now I'm cheering him on from the dugout and it's a little different atmosphere with him on my team now. It's pretty cool."

He also tries to stay out of Cody's face as much as possible.

"I don't say anything during the games but if we're in practice and he ever needs help, I'm definitely there for him," Sam said. "Now that he's a sophomore and not a freshman anymore he kind of does his own thing. He's a lot more used to things now."

Sam Roberts' playing days at Blessed Trinity will end in the coming weeks, and they will end with no regrets.

"It's been incredible; I couldn't ask for more," Sam said of his experience playing for BT and Harlin. "Awesome coach, awesome teammates, awesome school environment, great fan base. I really couldn't ask for anything more."

Other seniors on the current roster that join Innis with baseball scholarships at NCAA Division I programs include Nathaniel Maggio (Tennessee), Reed Scott (South Carolina) and C.J. Brazil (Georgia Southern).

"This is an awesome group of kids," Harlin said. "They work hard and it's a good blend from seniors down to sophomores. The leadership can't get any better with the senior class that we have and there's a lot of good kids coming back, too."

Harlin also likes the fact that he could send his seniors off with the sweet taste of competing at a high-level at a high-profile event like the PG High School Showdown.

"Not only are you playing great teams and great competition down here, but just the atmosphere is really exciting," Harlin said. "I think it's the same way for the Florida teams playing the Georgia teams and there's a lot of energy in those games."

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