March 28th, 2014
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Former South Troy Dodger and current University of Virginia photo Junior infielder Branden Cogswell is beginning to heat up at the plate for the second-ranked Cavaliers. He’s raised his batting average to .291, but there’s a way to go to duplicate last season’s .346, which was 10th best in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
By Brien Bouyea, The Record
It took Branden Cogswell a little time to make some adjustments this season, but he is once again in fine form and showing off the skill set that helped him garner a reputation as one of the finest players in college baseball.
A junior at the University of Virginia, Cogswell was a preseason All-America selection by Baseball America and Perfect Game. Cogswell, however, got off to a slow start at the plate this season while making the defensive adjustment from shortstop to second base.
“It’s different and there is a learning curve to playing a new position. I’ve been a shortstop my whole life and playing second takes some getting used to,” Cogswell said. “I’ve been working hard on my footwork and balance and I think it’s going pretty well so far. I think being able to show I can play multiple positions will only help me and my team down the line. Second base is mostly getting used to a different angle. I just have to keep at it and get as much experience as possible.”
A graduate of Shenendehowa High School and a former standout with the South Troy Dodgers, Cogswell is beginning to heat up with the bat. He is 8-for-16 in the past four games, including his first career four-hit game vs. the University of Miami. Hitting in the leadoff position, Cogswell has raised his average to .291. He is second on the team in hits (25), runs scored (24), walks (13) and on-base percentage (.404). Cogswell leads the Cavaliers (7-2 ACC, 19-4 overall) with five stolen bases and his defense has been exceptional, as he has not made an error all season. Virginia is ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today.
Expectations were certainly high for Cogswell entering the season. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Cogswell led the Cavaliers and finished 10th in the ACC with a .346 batting average. He was a first-team ACC selection even though he missed the final 15 games of the season because of a broken middle finger on his right hand. Virginia was ranked No. 1 in the 2014 preseason poll by Baseball America.
“There are a lot of outside expectations on this team, but we’re not paying too much attention to things people say,” Cogswell said. “It’s nice that the team is getting some of these accolades and we certainly expect to be a really good team, but all we’re focusing on is playing hard and getting better every day. I think if we do that everything will take care of itself.
“This is certainly the most talented team we’ve had since I’ve been here and we’re very versatile. We have so many guys who can play multiple positions and contribute in different ways.”
Cogswell had a huge jump in his production numbers in 2013 from his freshman season the year before. He improved across the board in batting average (.260 to .346), slugging (.360 to .451), on-base percentage (.419 to .464), extra-base hits (6 to 15), RBI (15 to 22), runs scored (28 to 56), stolen bases (2 to 12) and total bases (36 to 82).
“The first year of college baseball was a huge adjustment for me. I think I did pretty well, but I came back as a sophomore much more sure of myself and knowing what I needed to be to be successful,” Cogswell said. “There are so many things that are thrown at you as a freshman on top of just getting used to being in college and all of those responsibilities.”
Cogswell, who bats left and throws right, spent last summer competing in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League with the Harwich Mariners. He was selected for the league’s all-star game.
“That league really tests you, especially as a hitter because everyone goes through droughts with the pitching being as good as it is,” Cogswell said. “I really got a lot out of the experience. The competition is simply incredible and it really shows you the areas you need to improve on if you want to become a great player.”
Cogswell said there were similarities between his Cape League experience and his early days with the South Troy Dodgers.
“I was 15 when I first started with the South Troy 18-and-under team and I was pretty much thrown right into the wolves. It was similar to playing in the Cape League because you go right into a group of guys who have exceptional talent and being around that level of play forces you to to step up and get better,” Cogswell said. “I realized with South Troy pretty quickly that there is always going to be someone better than you, or more developed than you at a particular point, that if you wanted to get to that next level it would really require a maximum effort.
“I learned so much from the South Troy experience. The completion made me better and the exposure I got was incredible. I can’t thank those guys enough for helping me to where I am and potentially where I could go.”
Along with fine-tuning his defense at a new position, Cogswell said he continues to work at refining his hitting.
“I’m always working on my swing and being able to drive the ball consistently. Our park (at Virginia) is one of the largest in the country and you don’t want to try getting caught up in hitting it over the fence,” he said. “I’m working on being a steady line-drive hitter. I’ve become a better and more complete hitter each year and I think I still have plenty of room to grow in that area.”
As a junior, Cogswell has also taken on more of a leadership role at Virginia.
“We have some good leaders on this team and I consider myself to be one of those guys. We don’t have any seniors who are position players so it’s on the junior class to lead the way,” Cogswell said. “There were older guys here last year and when I was a freshman who helped show me the way and how to do things. It’s my turn now to help pass on what I’ve learned and lead by example.”
Cogswell said he hasn’t thought much about Major League Baseball’s draft in June. He is expected to be chosen in the early rounds according to various scouting services.