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Brannons make future arrive early

Brothers of former St. Petersburg star live up to standard to spark team.

By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003

Down to its final out, St. Petersburg's comeback Wednesday night against Clearwater appeared stalled. Well, except for one fact: the Brannon brothers were coming up.

Green Devils coach Stefan Futch is hoping to build his program around Nolan, a junior, and Dale, a sophomore, and the brothers showed him why that might be a good idea in helping put together the most exciting win of the season for St. Petersburg.

With two outs, Dale tripled, and Nolan singled him in to tie it. St. Petersburg went on to score six in the seventh and win 13-11.

You'll have to excuse Futch for smiling a little after that one, but he sees more where that came from in his team's future.

"Those guys are definitely the building blocks of my team," he said.

Nolan is the catcher, and Dale the shortstop and pitcher. Both are integral parts of a Green Devils team that, except with an 11-1 loss to Palm Harbor U. on Thursday, is on a roll.

The No. 2 seed in the district. A win away from a berth in the PCAC title game. More wins than last season and 10 in their past 13 games. All from a team with no seniors, with the Brannon battery leading the charge.

"Our expectations were to come in and be a little above .500," Dale said. "I was figuring next year would be our year to do something big."

The Brannon name is familiar to local baseball fans. Older brother Evan was a former Green Devils standout and all-state performer in 2000 who signed with South Florida before transferring to Florida Atlantic. His influence, Futch believes, has made his current crop of Brannons the dedicated, determined players they are.

"You can definitely see the influence," he said. "Dale and Nolan's work ethic is impeccable. They live and eat and drink and sleep baseball. Evan showed them the work ethic they needed."

Said Dale: "He set the standard we try to live up to."

With Evan off at college, the brothers have no trouble pushing each other to greater heights. Though just a year apart, they played on the same Little League team only one year, and are relishing being teammates.

"Oh yeah, it's great," Dale said. "We always push each other to do better. We make suggestions. I mean, you don't want to get on anyone's nerves, because there's still the car ride home. But it's good to have him around."

Nolan says the competitiveness makes for the most fun. "It's good for us," he said. After all, big brother can't let little brother best him. Not that it's easy to keep the advantage, as their stats bear out.

Nolan has one more double, one more hit and the edge in batting, .360-.356. But Dale has 23 RBIs to 12 and 21 runs to 11 (though Nolan, as the catcher, often gets a courtesy runner).

On the mound, Dale is 6-1 with a 1.67 ERA.

Combined with solid seasons from Kyle Stang, Adam Reclohe and Courtland Chambers, the Green Devils hope to prove that the future is here a little early.

"It's nice contributing to the rebuilding," Nolan said. "As long as we get to that championship game in districts, who knows what can happen. Maybe we can surprise someone."

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