Two former major-leaguers and several former William Penn High and University of Delaware players are among the seven 2023 Delaware Baseball Hall of Fame inductees.
Matt Brainard, Bill Brakeley, Rob Bryson, Brian Lesher, Johnny Morris, Mark Romanczuk and Mark Rubini will be recognized before the Wilmington Blue Rocks play the Jersey Shore Blue Claws in a South Atlantic League game June 14 at Frawley Stadium.
The Delaware Baseball Hall of Fame was founded in 1994 and is operated by the Delaware High School Baseball Coaches Association. The Class of 2023’s enshrinement increases the number of inductees to 157 along with seven teams. A plaque on the wall outside the first-base side of the pressbox at Frawley Stadium lists all the inductees.
The seven 2023 inductees:
Brainard starred in football, wrestling and baseball at William Penn, where he set a school stolen base mark and sparked the Colonials to the 1989 state title game. Brainard was then a four-year starter and three-time NAIA All-American at Wilmington University, which reached the 1992 NAIA World Series and won three conference and regional titles. Brainard played two minor-league seasons in the Phillies organization before becoming a coach. He became Wilmington coach at age 23 and guided the Wildcats for 10 seasons through 2004, winning 350 games, seven conference or section titles, three regional championships and making the 1995 NAIA World Series. He was seven-time conference and three-time regional Coach of the Year. Brainard then moved to West Chester for two years, steering the Golden Rams to two Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East titles and the 2006 NCAA East Region championship, resulting in West Chester’s first Division II World Series berth.
The hard-throwing lefty from Connecticut was first-team All-State his final two years at St. Andrew’s School in 1985 and 1986 while setting school records for career wins (20), career strikeouts (287) and strikeouts in a game (18, twice). He started and won two games, including the championship, for Delaware in the inaugural Carpenter Cup at Veterans Stadium. Brakeley then starred at the University of Delaware in 1988 and 1989, setting a school record with 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He was a fourth-round draft choice of the Milwaukee Brewers and played three minor-league seasons.
Bryson was a first-team All-State pitcher his junior and senior years, 2005 and 2006, at William Penn. A four-year starter who also played shortstop, Bryson batted .322 and went 22-8 with a 1.27 earned run average and 269 strikeouts in 198 innings in his career. He was a Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger first-team All-American as a senior when he batted .390 and went 9-2 with a 1.01 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 69 innings. Bryson attended Seminole State Community College in Florida before pitching nine professional seasons in which he struck out 525 in 434 innings and reached as high as Triple-A in the Cleveland system.
Lesher starred in basketball and baseball at Newark, where he was the first-team All-State first baseman as a senior in 1989, before going to the University of Delaware. Lesher was a two-time first-team all-conference pick with the Blue Hens as an outfielder/first baseman and a three-year starter from 1990-92, including the 1992 NCAA Tournament qualifiers. He batted .381, .380 and .376 those three seasons. Lesher was a 25th-round pick in the 1992 draft by Oakland and batted .283 in 12 minor-league seasons. He also had 288 big-league plate appearances in 108 games with Oakland, Seattle and Toronto (2002) and smacked nine homers.
Morris starred in football, basketball and baseball at the old Lewes High from 1958-60 The lefty’s baseball exploits included 20 wins, 351 strikeouts and three no-hitters. He also batted .588 with six home runs as a senior and was signed by the Phillies. Morris reached the big leagues in 1966 with Philadelphia and ended up pitching in 132 games over eight seasons and going 11-7 with a 3.95 ERA for the Phillies, Orioles, Seattle Pilots, Brewers and Giants.
One of Delaware’s most dominant high school pitchers, Romanczuk was second-team All-State as a St. Mark’s sophomore in 2000 and a first-team choice the next two years. He twice struck out 18 in a game, set school records for strikeouts in a season (146) and career (315) and had a career ERA of 0.77. His four no-hitters included a perfect game in which he whiffed 17. Romanczuk was drafted in the fifth round pick by Tampa Bay but elected to attend Stanford. He was Collegiate Baseball Freshman of the Year in 2003 after going 12-2 with a 4.01 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 112 innings as Stanford reached the College World Series title game. Romanczuk was a third-team All-American going 11-3 with a 4.31 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 109 innings as a sophomore. He was drafted in the fourth round by Arizona in 2005 and pitched four pro seasons.
Rubini was a speedy, hard-hitting outfielder who starred at William Penn and the University of Delaware. He was first-team All-State as a Colonials senior in 1983, when he batted .455, drove in 15 runs and stole nine bases. His career batting average was .451. Rubini was equally troublesome for opposing pitchers at Delaware from 1984-87, when he was a three-time All-East Coast Conference pick. He graduated first on the UD career chart in stolen bases (88), sixth in home runs (35), 10th in runs scored (196) and 15th with a .370 batting average. He batted a team-leading .423 as a sophomore and .421 as a junior. Rubini was a 35th-round draft pick after his junior year by Milwaukee but never played professionally.
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