There was a time, before Cory LeBrun was an offensive cornerstone of a team competing for an NCAA tournament bid, when the Gonzaga outfielder wondered if he was capable of playing at this level.
He was a freshman at Pac-12 power Arizona in 2011, redshirting after battling injury in the fall. And that’s when he doubted himself, if only mildly.
“I couldn’t really see myself playing with those guys,” LeBrun said. “It was just a big difference in caliber. Now that I look back, I think, yeah, I could have played with those guys.”
He can certainly play for Gonzaga. LeBrun, a third-year sophomore who spent last season at South Mountain Community College in his hometown of Phoenix, is batting .342 this season, good for second on the team. His 40 hits are tied for the team lead, and he’s tops in doubles (seven) and total bases (51).
LeBrun’s offensive contributions have helped Gonzaga (24-10-1, 11-4 West Coast Conference) to first place in the WCC, a spot at which the Bulldogs – ranked 24th in the nation this week by Baseball America – hope to remain after a crucial three-game series at second-place Pepperdine beginning today.
But LeBrun is just picking up where he left off at South Mountain, where he batted .365 with 13 doubles and 34 RBIs in 44 games last season.
The original plan was for LeBrun to head back to Arizona after his season at South Mountain, but “plans fell through,” he said.
During the summer, LeBrun got a call from Gonzaga associate head coach Danny Adams, who had seen LeBrun’s junior-college stats and wanted to watch him work out. So the two arranged a session at Sunnyslope High School, LeBrun’s alma mater, where coach watched player take batting practice, field fly balls and run.
Adams must have liked what he saw, because he offered LeBrun a scholarship. After an official visit later that summer, LeBrun agreed to come.
“Coming from a Pac-12 school, I feel like the program’s a lot more family-oriented,” LeBrun said. “Pac-12 teams will bring their guys in and just run them in and out through the draft sometimes. In this program, if any of my kids go to school, I’d definitely have them come here. It’s hard to explain. It’s something that you’ve got to experience for yourself I think.”
As for that big series against Pepperdine this weekend?
“Honestly, I think it’s just another weekend for us,” LeBrun said. “Friday’s our most important game of the season because it’s the next game. Offensively, we’ve just got to try to win every inning. I don’t think we’re going to do anything different than we’ve done this whole year.”
Around the area
Gonzaga completed a season sweep of Washington State on Tuesday by beating the Cougars 4-3 in Spokane. WSU travels south this weekend for a three-game series at California. The Cougars (18-16, 5-7 Pac-12) haven’t won a conference series since taking two of three games from Arizona State to begin the Pac-12 season. WSU is 3-6 in Pac-12 games since, winning just once against Stanford, Utah and Arizona. But this weekend presents an opportunity to buck that trend, as California is currently in ninth place in the Pac-12 (16-20, 5-10). … Another disappointing weekend has Whitworth in last place in the Northwest Conference. The Pirates (10-20-1, 5-13 NWC) were swept by Pacific (Ore.) last weekend, and were outscored 16-4 in the process. They’ve now lost 12 of their last 13 games. A three-game series at home against Willamette is on tap this weekend. It’s Whitworth’s last home series.