Nelson takes over as Tampa Spartans closer

Junior pitcher thriving in new role out of the bullpen

Braydon Nelson pitching for the Spartans
Braydon Nelson, here picking up his third save of the season, has been outstanding after requesting a move to the bullpen late last year. (Courtesy University of Tampa.) 

Braydon Nelson spent his first eight games of the 2021 baseball season as a starter for the University of Tampa Spartans. 

After a rough outing in the NCAA Division II South Regional Championship, he asked to be moved to the bullpen. 

Ever since, he’s been lights out. 

He went on to be the winning pitcher in the regional championship game that season and followed that up with 11 innings of one-run ball across two games in the NCAA D2 World Series. 

“[I felt] that moving to the bullpen was the right move for me because I can go out there and throw with 100 per cent intent,” Nelson said this week, on an internet call. “Being able to throw with max effort, focus on each individual pitch and not have to worry about going the full length of the game has been the biggest thing.”

Nelson has locked down the closer role in 2022 and has been what head coach Joe Urso called the team’s “top pitcher.”

Through nine appearances and 26.2 innings this season, Nelson has a 1.35 ERA with 28 strikeouts, three wins and a team-high four saves. 

“His career really hit another level at the end of last year … [when] he asked to move to the bullpen,” Urso said, from Tampa. “As soon as the game is on the line, he’s getting the ball.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s for one inning or five, we know that he’s going to be able to finish that thing for us.”

The 23-year-old right-hander is playing his fifth year of university baseball after transferring to the Spartans from St. Bonaventure University in 2019. 

In two seasons with the Bonnies, Nelson threw 132.1 innings in 29 games but transferred to the University of Tampa in hopes of developing even more on the mound. 

“I felt like I needed a change of scenery, to go somewhere where there’s more access to facilities and different ways to get better,” he said. “The warm weather [allows me] to do more stuff during the year and [that’s] opened up room for improvement.”

As he develops into one of the top arms in the conference — his ERA ranks fourth among qualified pitchers — Nelson has started drawing attention from Major League scouts ahead of the 2022 draft. 

Urso raved about Nelson’s stuff, calling his mid 90s fastball with sink “electric,” to go along with a great slider. 

“My strength is attacking hitters,” Nelson said. “My focus is just to throw in the zone, make the hitters swing and not try to pitch around people. When I’m attacking the zone and throwing strikes, that’s when I’m having the most success.

“That’s what I’ve been doing so far [this season] and it’s been working.”

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Posted: Mar 24 2022 7:11 pm
Filed under: Baseball College NCAA Sports