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Fortune shift for Farragut UT duo

Two former All-state baseball standouts at Farragut High School. Two examples of opposite fortune at the end of Tennessee’s 2009 baseball season.

How good was UT Vols closer Matt Ramsey at the end of an otherwise dismal season?

“At the end of the year I felt like he was as good a closer as there is in the country — that’s hard to say for a freshman, but that’s true,” said UT head coach Todd Raleigh about the former FHS All-state pitcher-outfielder whose freshman arm steadily improved throughout ’09.

Ramsey’s success was highlighted by saving all three games in a season-ending upset sweep against nationally-ranked Vanderbilt in Nashville. In one situation, the freshman worked out of a bases-loaded, none out ninth-inning jam unscathed to allow for a one-run Vols victory.

Then there was Cody Brown, former FHS All-state third baseman and Vol senior infielder who Raleigh labeled “just a hard-luck injury guy. I felt like he was probably the top defensive third baseman in the S-E-C. We didn’t get to use him there because he got hurt early on. That hurt our team.”

Brown’s UT career ended with an ankle injury following his base hit in game one of the three-game series against Vanderbilt that also ending a disappointing Vols season. (More on Brown later in this story)

Though Ramsey, a 5-foot-10, 190 pounder, ended with a 5.45 earned run average — 27 appearances, 36.1 innings with four saves — the freshman had a 4-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio: 44 strikeouts, 11 walks. Opponents hit just .234 against Ramsey.

“Matt grew tremendously in a lot of ways,” Raleigh said. “Number one, he grew mentally; but he also, I think, may have had a little bit of a fatigued arm at the end of last year in high school, and he came into fall [workouts] and he wasn’t up where he wanted to be. … He was 88, 89 [mph].

“But his velocity kept growing throughout our season, kept getting stronger and stronger,” Raleigh added. “A lot of times you don’t see freshmen do that. At the end of the year he was up to 95 [mph].

“He’s certainly got the perfect mentality to be a closer ’cause he’s really a tough kid, wants the ball in that situation. His command got better.”

Ramsey, 19, also played in the Vols’ outfield, starting in 11 games and hitting .200 (8 of 20) with three doubles. In 26 chances defensively, Ramsey committed one error and had seven assists.

“He likes to play the field, too, and he did a good job,” Raleigh said. “Matt wants to play every single day.

“He can best help us on the mound, but I’m not ruling out that he won’t do other things for us.”

Closer or starter in 2010? “It’s just too far to tell,” Raleigh said. “But I do know, when you’ve got a guy whose arm comes back as quickly as his does, and also has that mentality — it’s hard to find a closer like that.

“I have no problem starting him … but personally I kinda like him in that closing role because I feel like when he gets the ball in the ninth inning, our team feels like we’re going to win,” he added. “He really blossomed.”

Besides Ramsey’s fastball, “he’s got a really good breaking ball that can buckle you at times,” Raleigh said. “And he’s got a good enough change-up to be a starter.”

About Brown, a 6-foot-2, 200 pounder, Raleigh said, “I still say that he’s the guy that kinda rallied the team this year … to go 10-8 in the S-E-C the last six weeks.”

Brown, 22, hit six home runs in 2009, down from 10 the year before. However, “he essentially did that with one arm,” Raleigh said.

Brown already had a surgically repaired left shoulder before injuring his right shoulder early in the 2009 season, relegating him to duty at first base, second base or designated hitting and limited duty at third.

“He couldn’t even throw the ball 10 feet at times this year,” Raleigh said.

In 47 games, 42 starts in 2009, Brown hit .263 with six home runs, 25 RBI. His fielding percentage was .964, committing four errors with 52 assists.

“He played in over 200 games here at U-T, that says a lot,” Raleigh said. “He certainly developed into, I thought, a great leader.

“A very intelligent player.”


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