Competitive drive pushes pitcher to excel

Growing up, all Brody Koerner wanted to do was beat his older sister, Tabby, and his father, Loren, in basketball.

After years of working hard just to get bragging rights on his family's court, Koerner has become a standout competitor with a different ball in his hand.

Although Koerner is a key player on the Jay M. Robinson basketball team, his future is in baseball, where he is one of best high school baseball pitchers in North Carolina.

What fuels the South Piedmont Conference pitcher of the year is the competitive nature he learned in his own backyard.

"I've always been competitive in everything I do," said Koerner. "But what really motivates me is that I hate to lose. I can't think of anything worse in life. Just the thought of losing to my sister or dad, growing up, drove me crazy. That is where this all started."

The Koerner family is an accomplished athletic family with Koerner's father and mother, Brenda, both playing college basketball at Division II Davis-Elkins College in West Virginia. Tabby is going into her sophomore year as a forward on the Gardner-Webb women's basketball team.

But Brody could just be the best of the bunch in the end, as the rising senior has already committed to play college baseball at Clemson.

Koerner earned his way to Clemson in part because of his standout ability on the diamond for Robinson's baseball team, but also because of his time with the South Charlotte Panthers' showcase squad, which he plays in the summer and fall.

Koerner had his best season to date for the Bulldogs this year, going 6-3 overall on the mound with a 1.51 ERA, while tossing eight complete games and 151 strikeouts.

Bulldogs' baseball coach Jason Sarvis says his ace pitcher just keeps getting better and better.

"Brody was all about using his fastball to blow people away in the past," said Sarvis. "But I think he really started learning how to pitch this year. He pitched to contact more, mixed up his speeds and kept batters more off balance."

Koerner, who went 10-2 last year for the Panthers, has already been impressive for his club team this year, throwing a three-inning stint at a tournament at Lenoir-Rhyne where he struck out seven of the nine batters he faced.

Koerner has a devastating array of pitches with a fastball that goes into the low 90s and a curveball and change-up that counter his speed effectively.

"Brody is an exceptional talent and I think we all saw that from day one," said South Charlotte Panthers' Don Hutchins, who has coached hundreds of Division I baseball players in the last decade. "He has a great fastball and everybody knows that. But where he has really started to excel is his great command of secondary pitches."

While Koerner's high school season ended early last month, his club season is just beginning. The Panthers could play 60 to 75 games between now and October

Koerner will travel across North and South Carolina as well as Georgia in the next two months with the Panthers.

But he's not complaining.

"I love playing in the summers because you get to go play against the best players around every weekend," said Koerner. "It's great playing with and against guys you know are all going to be playing college baseball."

Koerner will be going to Clemson next summer, where he will be joined by Panthers' teammates Jackson Campana (Providence) and Kyle Whitman (Fort Mill Nations Ford).

Koerner is excited about his Tiger career, but he hopes that will be just another phase in a long career in baseball.

"I think every ball player dreams of playing professional baseball one day," he said. "I want to play pro ball, but I am focused on going to college and getting an education and playing baseball first."

Away from the diamond Koerner might also have a good future, boasting a 4.69 GPA at Robinson. He plans to double major in history and political science in preparation to be a lawyer if his baseball career doesn't pan out.

For now, Koerner is just focused on beating his competition, whether it's the best players in high school baseball or his sister, Tabby, in the backyard.

Those who know Koerner well, say it is the competitive drive inside him that makes him the player he is.

"He is not only talented and super intelligent, but he is the most competitive guy you will ever meet," Hutchins said. "You could send him out to face the New York Yankees' lineup and I think he'd go right after them and try to strikeout all of them. That is just his personality."