Gene's Blog: Bruchu adds to big-game reputation
May 25, 2012
Charles Bruchu has just four errors in 100 chances at third base this year and has been the Toms' most consistent hitter. (Thomas Whisenand photo)
Not every young athlete with a St. Paul connection named Charlie B. struggles on the baseball diamond.
For every lovable loser like Charlie Brown of the legendary Peanuts comic strip -- the creation of St. Paul native Charles Schultz -- there’s a lovable winner like Tommie baseball’s third-baseman Chuck Bruchu.
Like the familiar pattern on Charlie Brown’s shirt, our Chuck’s playing career has zig-zagged. There have been two shoulder surgeries and one missed season, plus a couple of slumps overshadowed by several hot streaks. Bruchu is closing his career with a dramatic upward surge.
He’s played a large role in No. 4-ranked St. Thomas reaching this week’s College World Series in Appleton. In nine postseason games in the last two weeks, Bruchu is batting .514 with 19 hits, 14 RBI and 13 runs. That has helped his raise his season average to .361.
“Chuck’s been our best player over the last three weeks,” said UST coach Chris Olean. “He and Dylan Thomas carried us in the conference playoffs. When you get a guy swinging the bat like he is, it takes a lot of pressure off the other guys.”
A three-time All-MIAC honoree, Bruchu has team bests in hits (56), RBI (43), total bases (90), doubles (14), extra-base hits (21) and multi-hit games. He shares the team lead in games played (46), HRs (six), runs (38), on-base% (.436) and steals (16).
Bruchu will take a 10-game hitting streak into Friday’s 4:30 p.m. game against No. 6-ranked Christopher Newport in round one of the eight-team, double-elimination Division III finals. The 38-8 Tommies have won eight of their last 10 games and earlier had a 21-game hitting streak in late March through April.
Bruchu has collected 163 hits in 145 career games. That includes a .404 career batting average in 26 postseason games (42 hits, 13 walks). He’s had just four errors in 100 defensive chances this season, and has started four double plays. A clutch hitter, he leads the team with a .462 average when batting with two outs. UST is 22-2 in games where he has at least one RBI. In 15 career conference playoff games, Bruchu has 26 hits and four walks.
A fifth-year senior who missed the 2009 NCAA championship season with an injury, Bruchu is making his first trip to the national finals. He had somewhat mixed feelings three years ago during the St. Thomas 2009 title run.
“I was obviously still excited that the team won (nationals) in 2009, but in the back of mind I kept thinking ‘I wish I was out there,’" Bruchu said. “It’s one thing to not be out there because you didn’t work hard or didn’t want to play, but when it was an injury, a pretty bad shoulder injury, something I couldn’t control, that was definitely frustrating. It gave me a little extra motivation to get back to the World Series. Even though I was part of the team the first time, I wanted to be out there on the field, and now to get that chance is very exciting.”
After starting this season 2-for-15, Bruchu is batting .386 over his last 40 games. Bruchu said a 2011 surgery contributed to his early-season woes.
“I actually had another shoulder surgery this past summer, right after last season in early June,” he explained. “The injury was the same (torn labrum) I had to my right shoulder in 2009, but his time it was my left shoulder. My left shoulder is my lead shoulder for swinging, and I think the tightness, pain and lack of strength in my shoulder initially really affected me physically and mentally. My coaches said everything looked fine but I could just feel that I was not 100%, especially on the inside pitch. I kept working through it and I think it came around eventually.”
A graduate of nearby Hill-Murray High, Bruchu started his Tommie career as a pitcher and infielder as a freshman in 2008. He pitched in eight games and posted a 1-0 record and with his bat had 17 plate appearances. But an injury prompted him to have surgery on his right shoulder, and he took a redshirt season in 2009.
Bruchu’s reputation as a gamer first was noticed in 2010 when he went 6-for-7 in a doubleheader against Bethel. It continued in 2011 when he ripped four hits at Siebert Field in an 8-3 upset of Division I Minnesota.
Olean said Bruchu’s leadership has been equally important as his clutch hits.
“He’s just a steady guy who has a calming effect on the team,” Olean said. “When we get into a tight situation, he’s one of the guys that steps up and says ‘OK, we’ve been here before, we’ll be OK.’”
Bruchu has a 3.67 grade-point average in Biology and is one the national ballot for Capital One Academic All-America consideration. He hopes to attend dental school in the near future and is in the process of applying to the University of Minnesota and Marquette, among other schools.
Bruchu said that if the Tommies pitch and play defense to their potential, they will be able to compete with anyone at nationals.
“Our pitching depth this year has been great,” he said. “On any given day we have a starting pitcher that can shut somebody down. That’s a luxury that most teams simply don’t have. When you pitch the way we have, you can get away with some offensive slumps and we have this year. I would take our three top starters (Steve Maher, Bryce Gapinski, and Dylan Thomas) against the top three starters of any other team in the nation.”