Briese Breakdown: The Pitching Staff

2022 15U National Team Manager dives into the makeup he wants from his pitchers

CARY, N.C. - Pitching can make or a break a baseball team, especially in international competition. Team USA has historically assembled tremendous pitching staffs for competition at every age group, and 2022 15U National Team Manager Drew Briese hopes to continue this strong presence at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-15 Baseball World Cup in Mexico.

Simply put – pitching wins ball games. To return home with a gold medal, Briese will need the best pitching possible. 

“The pitching staff is the backbone of any team. It’s the one thing you can show up with every day and really count on. In any tournament play, you’re probably going to run into a day where the bats go cold. If you show up pitching, you’re going to give your offense a little bit of leeway.”

What exactly is Briese looking for at the 15U National Team Championships North Carolina when it comes to pitchers? There are plenty of qualities for him to assess when scouting the athletes on the bump this week.

“When we’re evaluating pitchers for the national team there are a lot of factors at play. Stuff, velocity, spin, command. Then you get into the ability to control the running game, field your position, and intangibles. How competitive they might be, what kind of teammate they are, and what’s their reaction when adverse situations hit. There is a mixture of a lot of different variables.”

One of the most strategic aspects involved with the pitching at the 15U level is the ability to utilize two-way players. Due to roster limitations, it is crucial to have a roster full of flexibility. A prime example of this was Justin Campbell, a two-way player on the 2016 15U National Team. The now Oklahoma State ace set to be a high draft pick in the 2022 MLB Draft was named to the WBSC U-15 World Cup All-World Team as a first baseman. Athletes available on the 2022 roster to provide this level of versatility will heavily impact the pitching staff.

“At the 15U age, some guys are playing in the field and then relieving because they’re some of the better athletes on their teams. The dual position players really help lengthen out the pitching staff. When you’re at a 20-man roster, your pitching can get thin pretty quickly if you’re carrying pitcher-only (PO) players. We’ll carry a certain number of PO’s and bring over multiple dual guys who can give us innings in a short start or out of the bullpen.”

When Briese and the squad travel to Mexico, they will experience an atmosphere unlike any other. For the pitchers, their composure and focus will need to be at an all-time high when taking the mound. International play can be as rowdy as ever.

“Pitching in the international level stage is way different than what they will be used to here at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. It’s a very sanitary environment. It’s clean. They’re very familiar with their surroundings. Internationally, the PA can be talking right on top of the at-bat. People have drums, banging pots and pans in the stands. It can be a really different environment in a lot of different ways. We definitely talk about that during the training camp process. This way they won’t be surprised by any of it.”

To prepare his young arms, Briese and pitching coach Rob Shabansky will implement methods to prepare their guys for the big moment. Practices might get a little crazy when preparation starts for Mexico.

“We’ve piped in international crowd music during training camp games, or we’ll simulate the international tiebreaker with loud, loud crowd noise. Just to give them a feel of something that’s a little bit different.”

When a gold medal is on the line, it’s necessary to pull out all the stops. Briese will have these boys ready.