Editor’s note: Another in an occasional series about a player’s greatest game.
Georgetown’s Ryan Browner, 19, has had many athletic accomplishments since his days as a freshman starting pitcher for the Royals.
A Boston Globe All-Star for all four years in baseball and captain of the baseball and soccer teams for two years, Browner was named the Cape Ann League Player of the Year for baseball in his junior season.
He was an All-Star in soccer in his junior year and made all-league as a senior, going all the way to the Division 3 state finals. Holding the all-time win and strike-out records for Georgetown baseball, this current University of Southern Maine sophomore led the Royals to the Division 4 state finals as a junior, where they fell to Cohasset, and closed out his squad’s successful state championship run against Harwich the next year on only two days’ rest.
Now serving as an assistant coach for American Legion Post 150, Browner said he has to go all the way back to his freshman year at Georgetown High for the greatest game he ever played, when the 10th-seeded Royals took out sixth-seeded North Reading 2-1 in the 2009 Division 3 North semifinals.
“This game had everything a good baseball game should have,” said Browner. “It was dramatic, there was timely hitting, there was great pitching, there was great defense. Overall, it was just a solid game.”
The Royals had also faced the Hornets in the D3 North quarterfinals the year before and had lost on a passed ball.
“Not having been on the team before and not knowing the magnitude of the game and now, looking back on it, it was probably one of (my) most important games,” said Browner. “I think it was just the whole team that I was with (at the time). From our best player, Joe Esposito breaking his wrist (earlier in the season) to having upperclassmen at every position.
“It was our last year in Division 3 and getting the opportunity to play at the Lowell Spinners’ field (in the next game) was also big. It was the first time a Georgetown team had gotten to go there. But I think it was overall the team itself: learning from those upperclassmen.”
As a freshman, Browner put together an 8-1 record in 2009. Paired with senior Andrew Sinkewicz in a two-man playoff rotation, Browner was just waiting for his moment.
“All the way leading up to it it was Sink-me, Sink-me, Sink-me,” Browner said of himself and Sinkewicz.
“We alternated games and tried to match each other back and forth. He pitched against Tewksbury and then I knew I was going to be pitching against North Reading. Our goal was to get each other another start.”
Sure enough, Browner got his start then learned that he was going to be pitching against that year’s CAL Player of the Year, left-handed senior Kevin Singer. The next thing he knew, he was in the middle of a high-stakes pitcher’s duel. But Browner did well enough to hold the Hornets scoreless through the first four innings, allowing his team to pick up their two runs.
“You can never feel comfortable in those games,” said Browner. “But usually those are the games where pitchers get locked in the most. When games are, 8-0, you lose focus. The other team can chip away. But when the game is so close, you can’t lose focus.”
North Reading would score on a throwing error in the fifth inning, but their biggest moment, as well as the Royals, came in the sixth when Hornet Nick Rosano was at second base, leading to what then-Royals’ coach, Mark Rowe, called “the single most important play in the history of Georgetown baseball.”
“There was a guy on second with no outs,” Browner said. “It was a 2-1 game. We had a pickoff play on and we picked the guy off at second. Being a freshman, I’m going to trust my captain and shortstop, whatever he says. I trusted him and I saw that the guy had a big lead and I threw it to him. And after that, they never scored. I’ll take it.”
But things remained tense all the way until the game’s final moments.
“From what I recall, they had a guy on second (base),” Browner said of the final inning. “And they grounded the ball back to me for the last out. I remember I threw the ball over to (first) and instead of running to the first baseman, I ran back to my catcher. I was jumping up and down. I don’t know if we pig-piled or not, but being part of a senior-led group with a freshman on the mound, it was special for me.”