Written by Vinny Messana, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 01 May 2014 08:57
Sometimes it’s best to make a change in your life. It’s possible something was holding you back from reaching your potential. In the case of Cliff Brantley, he just needed a change of scenery.
“Things were not working out for me at my previous school, baseball-wise,” said the junior who played at Wagner College in Staten Island. “I was in a position where I needed somewhere to play and I remembered receiving a letter from Coach Dom Scala my junior year in high school. I took the chance in telling him I was interested in playing. I visited the school and came down with my parents. I am extremely grateful to Adelphi and Coach Scala for giving me the opportunity to play.”
Through 29 games, it has been a tremendous decision. In a matter of one year, Brantley has gone from fighting for a lineup spot with a .170 average, to being the team’s leading hitter from the first day of the season and the first player on Long Island to compile 50 hits.
To this point, he has an incredible 51 hits in 114 at bats (.447), including eight doubles, one home run, 20 runs and 15 stolen bases and stellar defense in center field.
“He’s been the leadoff hitter we’ve been missing the past few years,” said relief pitcher Mike Cranston. “A great teammate, hard worker and one of the fastest players I’ve played with,” he added.
Brantley has made the Northeast-10 look easy. Those who have played in the conference know that is not generally the case. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the nation’s lowest team ERAs in 2011.
1. UMass-Lowell 1.83
2. Adelphi 1.98
3. Southern Connecticut State 2.12
4. Franklin Pierce 2.45
Even with that No. 1 ranked ERA, UMass still found a way to lose 14 games. Additionally, No. 18 and 19 on this list were also in the conference.
Essentially, the Northeast-10 is where batting averages go to die. The wood bats account for a big chunk of the power outage. It’s one of few conferences in the country that enforce it. There is also a bevy of professional-caliber pitchers that come from this conference.
Regardless, Brantley had found a way to put together 15 multi-hit games, including nine three-hit games. It has been nothing short of remarkable.
Brantley attributes the start to two things. First off all, he credits his father, also Cliff Brantley, who played two seasons in the Major Leagues (‘91-’92) to teaching him how to hit at a young age.
“Starting when I was about eight he would always throw the ball as hard as he could at me and told me to swing no matter where it was,” he said. “So I could build up the hand-eye coordination and be able to gain the confidence that I could hit any pitch with two strikes,” he added.
He also credits one of Adelphi’s coaches, Bill Ianniciello.
“We spent hours upon hours, day-in and day-out before the season working on keeping both my hands on the bat throughout my swing. I always finished my swing with only my bottom hand on the bat. Keeping a strong top hand allowed me to hit the ball harder and hit more ground balls and line drives which is very beneficial to my style of play.”
His father was a pitcher in the big leagues, which means he needed to find a hitter to emulate.
“Growing up I admired Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and Dustin Pedroia. Currently, I’m starting to like Dee Gordon of the LA Dodgers and Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers.”
Having watched Brantley’s style of play, he does resemble those players to varying degrees. That is saying something, considering their success at the highest level.
Brantley still has a way to go to approach them, but in the meantime he is focusing on getting the Panthers to the playoffs. They are in the midst of a dogfight for a postseason berth.
“We have a strong chance for sure at the playoffs,” he said. “Our offense is starting to put up more runs these days and our pitching is continuing to do a good job. We can take this season as far as we want,” he said.