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More mature Bowen has helped lead Absegami baseball resurgence

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher To have a successful baseball team, you need to have a guy like Brandon Bowen around. He’s not going to light up the radar gun with 92-mph fastballs. He’s not going to hit towering home runs deep into the trees beyond the outfield fence. He’s not going to make acrobatic plays in the infield worthy of an ESPN Sportscenter Top 10. But he’s like that trusty old pickup truck out in the driveway. Teenagers aren’t going to stare and admire it as you’re driving down the road, but you know the engine is going to turn over every morning when you need to get to work. Bowen didn’t start out his career as the rock of the Absegami baseball program. He was talented enough to make the varsity team as a sophomore, but that season got mostly wiped out after a freak ankle injury. Baseball has a way of grinding you down with a steady diet of failure, and early in his career Bowen had trouble dealing with the frustration. But he rebounded with a pretty good junior season, showing flashes of becoming a solid No. 2 starter behind standout righty Matt Ardente, a current junior who recently committed early to play his college ball at Seton Hall. Bowen also proved he could be a middle-of-the-order type of left-handed bat. Brandon Bowen, a senior first baseman and pitcher, has quietly put together one of the best season's by a Cape-Atlantic League player and helped lead the Braves to a No. 5 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O'Sullivan) Brandon Bowen, a senior first baseman and pitcher, has quietly put together one of the best season’s by a Cape-Atlantic League player and helped lead the Braves to a No. 5 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan) This season it has all come together for Bowen, as the southpaw has been dominant on the mound and is in the midst of putting together one of the better offensive seasons in the Cape-Atlantic League. He’s hitting well over .300 and is one of the top RBI guys on a squad that garnered the No. 5 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs and a first-round matchup with Millville. He also has matured and become a leader of what is still a fairly young Braves team. “He struggled with (maturity) early because baseball is a game that is built to beat you down. It’s a game that’s built on failure. If you get a hit 30 percent of the time that’s considered good,” said Absegami coach Brian Wastell. “It’s hard when they are young to get them to realize that a 70 percent failure rate is not necessarily a bad thing. That’s one thing that we stress to our players. Baseball is about failure and you have to learn how to deal with it.” “I’ve had my ups and downs. I got hurt my sophomore year and that was very frustrating. Junior year even caught me by surprise. This year, I’ve tried to build on what I did last year and improve upon that, and hopefully turn some heads and win some baseball games,” Bowen said. “I think I’ve done a lot of growing up over my four years of high school. Coming off that injury (sophomore year) was beyond frustrating and a lot of things were festering. I had a lot of growing up to do. I have people looking at me now and it’s time to be mature. I think having some attention on the team has allowed me to grow as an individual. I know I can’t throw a temper tantrum or whatever the case may be.” There haven’t been many reasons for angry outbursts this season, as the Braves have emerged as one of the better teams in the ultra-competitive Cape Atlantic League American Conference and steamrolled into the playoffs. “When you go from Millville, to Vineland, to Egg Harbor Township, to Atlantic City, there are no easy games in this conference and that’s every day for us. And for Brandon to step up the way he has, that’s been big. I’m proud of the way he has matured, because that’s not only going to help him in baseball, that’s going to help him in life,” Wastell said. “These seniors realize they are preparing the future while living in the present.” Bowen said he’s not surprised at the type of success Absegami (12-6, No. 5 seed in SJ Group 4) has enjoyed this year. He expected it, knowing players such as Ardente, Tyler Welch, Buck Amend and Matt Branco all came into the season with varsity experience and were poised to have solid seasons. “For three years, we had this crazy idea that we could do something special this year. We were always looking ahead to this year, and it’s finally here. We’ve had some ups and downs. My role is to be a leader and pass the torch on, so to speak. As much as we are building toward a successful season this year it’s also about the years to come,” Bowen said. “The coaches have really helped me become the type of player I want to be. We want to do big things this year, and not only will it take me working hard it takes the other guys around me working hard, too, and I feel like they have. These guys are my best friends. This is my family, really. We grew up together, we hang out outside of baseball. We jell together for whatever reason, and it works.” Bowen said that there is a new kind of energy around the team this season, and that starts in practice. They are practicing less in terms of time spent on the field, but they are utilizing their time so much more effectively. “This year, I really feel like we leave practice knowing we got better. It came with the success. The quality of practice started picking up and all of a sudden we are leaving practice at 5 p.m. when we used to leave at 5:30 p.m., but we also did that much more,” Bowen said. “It’s not so much about the time we spend, but the quality of the time we spend. The coaches have picked up on that and it’s working.” Wastell said the thing about Bowen is the potential to be a leader and someone the rest of the team takes cues from was always there, it just took some time for those qualities to come to the surface. “He’s stepped up. We challenged him really heavy to leave no regrets with his senior year, and he’s done nothing but produce,” Wastell said. “The biggest thing with Brandon is he has grown and matured to not let things rattle him as much. He is a senior who is realizing that high school is coming to an end and he’s maxing out everything that he’s got. I’m very proud of the way that he is approaching this year. The best part is, if he makes a mistake he will acknowledge it and he will fix it. “He’s been a guy who needed to come into his own during his senior year and he needed to trust that he was going to come into his own. As soon as he gave me that letter nominating someone else for captain, I knew he was coming into his own. Sometimes he’s so passionate I have to reel him in a little bit. The other day he got a little passionate and we had to sit him down and say, look, you’re beyond that. He came in the next day and said, ‘coach, I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.'” Ironically, Bowen, despite being a 3-year member of the varsity program and a senior, is not the captain. He voted Amend to be captain, and according to coach Wastell, that tells you all you need to know about Brandon Bowen. “The guy who wrote the letter for Buck Amend to be captain, because you have to write a letter to me stating why you think somebody should be captain, was Brandon,” Wastell said. “I knew right away this year was going to be a good year for him when he turned in a letter nominating someone else to be captain.” “Buck is the undoubted leader, to me, on this team. I felt that him being a captain was the best thing for this team, not only because he’s a leader on the field, but he’s a leader in the classroom in school, he’s a good kid, and he represents our team well,” Bowen said. “In terms of a captain, it’s not necessarily what you do on the baseball field.” Sounds like something a captain might say. Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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