Just six miles apart on Route 6, Hall Red Devil Bret Fanning and neighboring St. Bede Bruin Brad Groleau come together once gain as the 2013 BCR Baseball Players of the year. They are the first duo to repeat as Player of the Year since the BCR first handed out that distinction in 1996.
The only other Player of the Year repeats were Princeton’s Reid Clary (2009, 2010) and Tony McCombs (2004, 2005) and St. Bede’s Billy Terry (1999, 2000).
Both are multi-talented, leading their teams both at the plate and on the mound. Groleau helped lead the Bruins to a regional championship; Fanning was the leading charge to the Red Devils’ 18-6 record.
Fanning on Groleau: “Brad is a great hitter and a tough competitor. I know he puts just as much work into the game as I do. I learned no matter how hard you throw, you can’t give him a fastball, because he’ll catch up to it and drill it.”
Groleau on Fanning: “I always enjoy playing against the best and he was one of the best pitchers in the area. he has always been a great competitor and really understands the game of baseball.”
Ace in the hole
Fanning was dominant on the mound in 47.3 innings pitched, striking out an area-high 84 batters while walking only 15.
“That’s not a bad ratio,” Hall coach Tom Keegan said.
With a 7-2 record, Fanning’s wins were topped in the area only by St. Bede’s Damin Smith (8-1). He also posted a 1.92 ERA, tarnished by a tough early-season outing against Ottawa Marquette. He gave up only seven earned runs the rest of the way.
At the plate, is where Fanning really raised his game this year. He batted .430, raising his average 84 points from last year. He was determined not to let that happen again, making a daily routine of early-season batting practice with his friend and former Red Devil Phil Scott.
“We were up there hitting two hours, two and half hours, just hitting and shagging the balls and going up there again. We kept going back and forth really getting my work in,” Fanning said.
The Hall senior also led the Red Devils in hits (34), runs scored (26), RBIs (28), doubles (9), stolen bases (11) and home runs (2).
“Bret led us in several offensive categories and was our number one in our pitching rotation. When he wasn’t pitching for us, he played a very steady shortstop. He will be hard to replace,” Keegan said.
Fanning was disappointed the Red Devils (18-6) didn’t get a chance to break the school record for wins set last year (22), having so many games rained out. He also was disappointed how their season ended prematurely with an 8-1 regional semifinal loss to Ottawa Marquette.
Fanning capped his Hall career with unanimous first team selection in the Tri-County Conference. He is playing this summer with the Illinois Bobcats 19U team before departing this fall to play for the Peacocks of Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa where he will focus solely on pitching.
Brad Groleau’s first love in baseball was pitching. He was an overpowering pitcher, a left-hander at that, which made him all the more difficult to hit for youth batters.
And while he maintained his pitching prowess over the years, hitting the horsehide became his passion.
“Definitely in Little League, I think pitching was my favorite because I started all the time. Now as I get older, I love playing the field and hitting the ball,” he said.
The sweet-swinging lefty has flirted with the .500 mark the past two seasons, hitting .485 his junior season and then .465 this season as a senior, tailing ever so slightly at the end of the year.
He was always a tough out in the No. 3 hole, one such that the Beecker coach unintentionally, intentionally walking him with the sectional semifinal contest on the line.
His batting average was second to teammate Brandon Pietrowski’s .478 among area batsmen, both collecting 33 hits, topped only by Fanning’s 34. Groleau also led the Bruins with 34 runs scored and drove in 22 runs, second to teammate Logan Bima’s 29.
“I love hitting in that 3 hole, just trying to carry the team as much as I can and get a bunch of guys on and try to get them as best as I can,” Groleau said.
Groleau relished the Bruins’ regional championship, capping his Academy career in style.
“We couldn’t get it in basketball and it was our last shot. We had nine of our plays were seniors so it was good to get that regional, definitely,” he said. “It was great to be on such a winning team.”
Groleau will undergo the knife in July after tearing an ACL in his knee for the second time in two years in recent summer ball action. This fall he will be attending McKendree University where he will take a redshirt and have four years to play.
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