June 5, 2012

Brance Rivera's positive attitude leads TCU to Super Regional showdown with UCLA

Outfielder vowed his TCU career wouldn't end in College Station.

Brance Rivera, as usual, was happy. He was smiling, almost giddy, as he sat in the dugout last week before TCU left for the College Station Regional.

The senior outfielder was his usual relaxed self despite a season in which he struggled to find his stroke at the plate.

While discussing the postseason, Rivera guaranteed TCU would win the regional, vowing that his collegiate career would not end in College Station. He wasn't boasting or even trying to predict the outcome. He inserted it in a conversation like it was a matter of fact.

And then he went out and made sure it happened. Rivera led all players in the regional with nine RBIs and nine runs scored while also batting .294 with a home run and three doubles in five regional games. It's the type of offense TCU fans had come to expect from Rivera, who hit .333 with 27 doubles and 13 homers the last two seasons.

"I wish I had known that," TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle joked about the prediction. "You saw him get rewarded. We have a saying in our program: 'The game knows.' The game knows who the good people are, who works. And the game will reward or penalize accordingly."

According his teammates and coaches, Rivera is one of the "good people."

"It's real simple: Brance is the guy you want your son to grow up to be and the guy you want your daughter to marry," Schlossnagle said. "There are no negatives. Only bad thing you can say about him is in a couple weeks he's going to walk off our campus."

But Rivera's senior season has been a grind. An injury slowed him at the start, and he didn't return to the everyday lineup until a month into the season. Rivera's defense in the outfield was as good as ever, as he made numerous diving catches and a leaping, home run-stealing catch over the wall in right field.

But his bat has been slower to come around, making for a frustrating season. His positive energy hasn't been deterred, however. He remained confident that his swing would come around in the postseason, despite batting just .219 with 16 RBIs in 46 games before the regional.

"I don't know how you survive it if you don't [be positive]," Schlossnagle said of Rivera's upbeat nature.

"I can't remember the last time I've had a guy come back for his senior year, who has been an all-conference player before, who didn't have a great senior year. It's usually money in the bank. For whatever reason, at least in the regular season, it hasn't worked out for Brance, but hopefully with this past weekend, the best is ahead of him."

Rivera isn't making a prediction, at least publicly, for the Frogs' Super Regional series against No. 2 national seed UCLA (45-14). The best-of-three series begins with Game 1 at 8 p.m. Friday at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles.

"This season didn't go how I wanted it to, but I wouldn't change it for the world," Rivera said. "Now, when it matters, I can help the team, and that's all I'm trying to do -- get RBIs, get on base, catching balls in the gap, whatever it is. I just want to keep us playing, this team, right now."

Stefan Stevenson


Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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