Tom Brennan had to get used to this. He wasn't accustomed to happy high-fives and man hugs. After last winter, he wasn't used to anything, other than looking at the scoreboard after another loss, looking down and shaking his head as he walked off the basketball court.
He became programmed by it: Drop 24 points while getting double-teamed and lose by 30.
This spring brought something different for the 6-4 Sun Valley junior. In 1 week, he won more games than his basketball team won all of last season. That's the dichotomy of Brennan's athletic world.
A two-sport star, Brennan finished last basketball season averaging more points per game than any player in Delaware County - for a team that was 2-22.
Brennan is one of five pitchers on the Vanguards' baseball team that is 18-1 and one of the best in the area - carrying an 18-game winning streak into today's PIAA District 1 Class AAA first-round playoff game hosting Springfield (Delco) at 4 p.m.
For Brennan, it's nice to finally win.
"This feels great," Brennan said. "There is a mind-set that we could win every game we play. We know how capable each guy is. It was very depressing during the basketball season. It wasn't a fun experience, but once baseball came around, my attitude changed."
During basketball season, the Vanguards started two seniors, with two sophomores seeing considerable time - and Brennan. The Vanguards also play in probably the most competitive league in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Del Val League, which features state champion Chester and powerhouses Glen Mills and Penn Wood. (Next season could be different since the Vanguards will be entering the Ches-Mont League.)
Brennan got a lot of attention - and he still scored. A 3-year basketball starter, Brennan scored a season-high 41 in a loss to Bishop Shanahan.
But spring is here, and Brennan is a very accomplished baseball player. The Vanguards won their seventh-straight Del Val League title.
Brennan leads the Vanguards with four saves, and he has been clocked in the mid-80s. He has 24 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched, and carries a 2.21 ERA. He starts in leftfield when he's not pitching, going 13-for-38, with one homer and 15 RBIs.
His sport, however, is basketball. He is receiving some attention from Saint Joseph's and Temple.
"But I do like baseball, as well," said Brennan, who has a 3.3 grade-point average. "I'm looking to play basketball in college, but if I get a baseball offer from a school, I'll certainly consider. I'm not ruling out baseball."
Sun Valley baseball coach Kraig Kaufhold knew Brennan could help out in several positions.
"We knew once Tom got himself in baseball shape, he would help us in a number of ways," Kaufhold said. "He's really helped us on the mound and in the field. Tom can run and covers a heck of lot of ground out there. We knew he'd help us out defensively. He's been a bonus on a lot of different levels. This baseball season has been a welcome change for Tommy."
Kaufhold also likes Brennan's attitude. After coming off a 22-loss basketball season, Brennan was pretty unflappable.
"But I still get teased from the guys on the baseball team about basketball season," Brennan said. "It's finally nice to win. Hopefully, we get hot and keep playing. We win two games and we're in the state playoffs, and if we win four, we win the state tournament. This is a team that doesn't know how to lose. That's something I can get used to." *