Entering his second year at St. Louis Community College, it would be hard to imagine outfielder Brandon Gutzler playing beyond a standout freshman year that placed him among the premier offensive performers at the two-year college level.
Though the sample size is small, he’s doing just that as a sophomore.
The 2013 DeSmet High School graduate entered Thursday’s doubleheader against Jefferson College batting .400 with a team-leading 9 RBIs and three of his team’s five home runs, in just 30 at-bats.
For head coach Scott Goodrich, there are few surprises with anything Gutzler does at the plate on a day-to-day basis.
“He’s a middle-of-the order guy, a (NCAA) Division I player, probably even a professional player,” Goodrich said. “He just needs to lead by example and have quality at-bats. Everyone knows who he is. They watch him. They recruited him and they know what he is. To ask a guy to hit 20 home runs or bat .500, that’s a bit unreasonable. But we ask him to do what he’s capable of, and if he does that, he’s going to have a lot of success wherever he plays.”
Gutzler, who has committed to NCAA Division I’s Murray State University for next year, has always maintained the long view in his baseball career. Despite having Division I offers directly out of high school, he saw St. Louis Community College as an opportunity to quickly elevate his profile as a future professional prospect. He collected quickly on that bet he took on himself, batting .382 with five home runs and a team-most 47 RBIs in 178 at-bats as a freshman.
“I could either go junior college or go straight to Division I, but I would need to be a junior or 21 (years old) before I’d be drafted from a D-1,” Gutzler said. “I figured I could get something done here first, and I don’t think I could have made a wrong choice either way.”
After that auspicious start to his collegiate career, teams have generally steered clear of challenging the Archers’ talented right fielder. He saw nary a pitch on the inner half during the second half of Thursday’s doubleheader against Jefferson College, a 10-6 win for the Archers.
Despite having fewer pitches to work with this year, Gutzler has refrained from forcing the issue and pressing to create offense.
“There’s really no pressure,” Gutzler said. “It’s just a game. You go out and play ball, and I know a lot of guys around here look to me, and I don’t want to let them down, so I do my best. Coming out of high school, I was a little nervous, because you don’t know what to expect when you play a Jefferson College, or Mineral Area, or big powerhouses like that. But you just grind it out, and you do what you do in the cage and it (works out).”
For Gutzler, however, it just works out a bit better than for most.