Drew Brzozowski developed a reputation as a big-game pitcher during his four years at Brandeis. The 2010 graduate had a 2.25 ERA and was second-team All-UAA as a rookie. As a sophomore, he threw 7.2 innings of four-hit ball in an ECAC Tournament game. Brzozowski (pronounced bruh-zau-ski) was routinely superb against University Athletic Association (UAA) foes.
Brzozowski was great in clutch situations at Brandeis. Since he graduated, he has become practically unhittable.
Since the summer of 2009, "Brick House," as he was known by teammates who struggled to pronounce his name, has pitched for the Lexington Blue Sox of the Intercity League (ICL). The ICL has a mix of former and current collegiate players, as well as several former pro athletes.
In Brzozowski's five seasons on the Blue Sox, Lexington has won four ICL championships. Brick House was on the mound for the final game in three of them.
Brzozowski was untouchable in the playoffs last season, tossing 18 1/3-consecutive shutout innings on his way to posting a 0.67 ERA and three complete game wins in three starts. He finally gave up two runs in the fifth inning of a winner-takes-all Game 5 showdown, but Brzozowski quickly snapped back into form, and Lexington won, 7-2.
Throw in clinching performances in 2009 and 2011, as well as two playoff MVP awards, and the righty has a postseason resume that would make Curt Schilling blush.
"He asks for the ball," Blue Sox manager Rick DeAngelis said. "There's that saying that big time players come up big in big games. That describes Drew to a T."
Brzozowski first appeared in the ICL after his rookie season with the Judges in 2007. Several Brandeis players and alumni, including Mike Parissi (class of 2003), Bryan Lambert (2005) and Chuck Sheehan (2008), recruited Brzozowski to join them at the Cassell Club in Somerville.
When the Cassell Club folded in early 2009, Brzozowski thought that his ICL career was finished. But days later, the Brandeis ace received a call from Blue Sox manager Rick DeAngelis, a life-long friend of Brandeis coach Pete Varney.
"I always wanted him to come to Lexington, but he somehow found his way over [to Somerville]," DeAngelis said. "When Cassell folded, I walked into Pete Varney's office and said 'I want a pitcher.' He asked me which one I wanted, and I told him Drew."
Brzozowski's numbers in Lexington have been superb. Last summer, he posted a 4-1 record and a 0.75 ERA in 28 innings of work. In 30 starts over 5 seasons with the Blue Sox, he has an 18-7 record and a 1.73 ERA. His playoff record in 10 starts for the Blue Sox is 8-1; his ERA in postseason play is a paltry 0.79.
"He's such a focused competitor when he's on the mound," DeAngelis said. "He's totally, absolutely in charge and in focus. He's one of those special young men who knows how to do it, knows how to pitch."
Brzozowski was no slouch on the mound at Brandeis. In four seasons, he amassed a 16-10 record and a 4.25 strikeout/walk ratio, two of the best marks in school history He ranks seventh on Brandeis' career list with 179 strikeouts.
"Drew was a reliable, dependable player," Varney said. "He was very competitive, and a great team member."
It was with the Judges that Brzozowski first established his reputation as a big-game pitcher. During his rookie season, he allowed just one run in 10 innings of UAA play. The first-ever night game on Stein Diamond was a 2008 ECAC tilt against Rivier College. Brzozowski got the start and allowed just one runner to reach second base, striking out seven and walking none.
"It's great pitching in those high-pressure situations," Brzozowski said. "The whole team is relying on you in situations like that, so you really have to bring your A game. There are a bunch of fans watching you and cheering you on as well."
Brzozowski now works in finance for TJX, a retail giant based in Framingham. And though he no longer dons a Brandeis uniform, Brzozowski still looks forward each year to lacing up his cleats and taking the mound.
"When I was in school, the real season was in the spring, and summer was more relaxed—we were just hanging out and having fun," he explained. "Now this is my season. Every year I look forward to the summer and playing again."
The Blue Sox kick off their 2014 season at Lexington High School on Friday night against Watertown. As the team's ace, Brzozowski, who was profiled in the Boston Globe earlier this week, will be on the mound.
- Jeffrey Boxer