Ryan Brennan's reliability has made the Mooresville senior stand out during the past couple of years.
As one of the top baseball players in Iredell County last season, he could almost always be counted to make big plays offensively for the Blue Devils. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder hit .455 while swatting seven home runs and 30 RBI for the year.
Brennan did all that even though he had a broken bone in his right hand - his throwing hand - after being hit by a pitch three games into the season. He sat out for only two weeks and played through some discomfort to lead his team to a 20-10 record and a second-place finish in the I-Meck conference standings.
Batting in the middle of the order, he is an adept base runner who also excels with his arm and fielding abilities, said Mooresville baseball coach Jeff Burchett.
"Brennan does it all," he said. "He's a five-tool player."
Burchett added that he's glad to have the resilient Brennan on his team.
"He's the best player I've got," said Burchett. "Wherever I put him, he's going to be the best."
Brennan's main position is center field, although he's also Mooresville's backup catcher and the team's closer this year. The 18-year-old has recorded saves in each of his first three appearances on the mound.
Brennan, who grew up playing shortstop before moving to the outfield, said he doesn't mind moving around the field.
"I've just always played everywhere and try to keep it that way," said the Fairleigh-Dickinson (N.J.) signee. "I try to be solid at every position. I'm comfortable everywhere. I love just being on that field."
Burchett said Brennan's versatility will be important in how successful the Blue Devils will be after losing 11 seniors off last year's roster.
But just as important will be Brennan's leadership.
The team captain said he tries to be vocal in the outfield or behind the plate. He also said playing with confidence and giving it his all can pay its dividends.
"I always try to let my play speak louder than my words," said Brennan.
Burchett said his players respect Brennan because despite all his success and ability, he stays humble and acknowledges that baseball isn't an individual game by recognizing his teammates' contributions.
Brennan said he spent the offseason going to the batting cage and spending time with his fellow Devils to build team chemistry.
"Everyone's becoming good friends," he said. "The tighter we get as a brotherhood, the better we'll be as a team."
Mooresville, which starts the year 3-3 (1-1 in I-Meck play), has a strong nucleus of veteran talent to build on. Along with Brennan, third baseman Joe Cobb, outfielder/pitcher Andrew Meadows and first baseman Austin Beaver are contributing as seniors.
Brennan has high praises for the team's underclassmen.
"The younger kids are stepping up," he said. "They're playing a huge role. They're helping us win some ball games."
Freshman Tommy Bullock has been key for Mooresville, earning a starting spot at second base.
Junior pitcher Devin Bagwell has impressed, recording a 0.70 ERA and 11 strikeouts through his first 10 innings on the mound. Meadows and sophomore Wesley Ludwig have also been strong on the mound.
After they hit 35 home runs last season, a big question was whether the Blue Devils could adjust to playing with the new BBCOR (composite) bats. The team has noticed offensive numbers go down, as they have across high school baseball. The team had yet to hit a home run through its first six games.
"We haven't even come close," said Burchett.
"Last year, I could just wait on that three-run homer. You can't do that this year."
But Burchett isn't worried about moving away from being a power-hitting team and focusing more on pitching and defense.
"That's all right with us," said Burchett. "We'll adapt."
He added that getting his runners in motion more often - whether by bunting or by stealing bases - is one of his many changes to try to get more players into scoring position.
Brennan, who starts the year hitting .211 and has had only three runs and one RBI, isn't too worried about his decreased production.
"What I'm shooting for is wins," he said. "It's not about personal statistics. It's about helping this team and hopefully competing for a state championship."