Mellano part of Brown team which wins Ivy League championship
Last updated 7/19/2007 at Noon
In 2006 Joey Mellano was on the Fallbrook High School baseball team which won the Avocado League championship and reached the finals of the CIF Division I playoffs. This year he was on the Brown University baseball team which won its first-ever Ivy League championship and participated in the NCAA Division I playoffs for the first time in the program’s history.
“It was a real thrill, honestly, to go there my first year and be on such a great team and win the Ivy League,” Mellano said. “I didn’t get to play a whole lot, but it’s still probably the best season with one of the best teams I’ve ever played with.”
Mellano spent 2007 as the second-string catcher for the Bears. Brown’s first-string catcher, Devin Thomas, was the Ivy League Player of the Year and an American Baseball Coaches Association first-team Northeast Region selection. Thomas, a senior, was also a seventh-round selection in professional baseball’s June draft, and Mellano is expected to be Brown’s starting catcher in 2008.
The situation was not unprecedented for Mellano, who played both catcher and outfield for the Warriors and didn’t become Fallbrook’s starting catcher until his senior season. He appeared in a handful of varsity game as a freshman while spending most of 2003 on the junior varsity squad and was on the varsity for all of his final three high school years. Mellano played left field as a sophomore and right field as a junior before Zane Chavez graduated in 2005 and Mellano became the team’s catcher for his senior season.
Baseball has been played at Brown since 1863. This year the Bears lost their first five games and opened the season with a 1-8 record, but Brown won 13 of the 15 games preceding the NCAA tournament. Even with the two NCAA tournament losses, Brown finished with a 27-21 record which broke the school mark for wins in a season. Brown’s previous single-season win record occurred in 2002, when the Bears finished 25-24.
“To be on a team like that was a treat,” Mellano said.
Brown also finished 14-6 in Ivy League competition prior to the best-of-three league championship series with Penn. For the first time in Brown’s history, the Bears won the Red Rolfe Division, which consists of the four northern schools in the Ivy League (Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale). That earned them a berth in the league championship series against Penn, which won the Lou Gehrig Division also consisting of Columbia, Cornell, and Princeton.
Brown’s first trip to the Ivy League playoffs began with a 1-0 win in which the Bears scored on a sacrifice fly to the second baseman. Brown wrapped up the league title in the second game of the May 5 doubleheader, scoring eight runs in the first inning to sweep Penn and give Brown its first trip to the NCAA playoffs in the tournament’s 61-year history. Mellano did not play in either of the league championship games.
The Brown team traveled to Austin, Texas, for a regional consisting of Brown, Texas, Wake Forest, and University of California, Irvine. “Going to Texas was an experience for sure,” Mellano said. “We were kind of overwhelmed with Texas fans.”
The University of Texas is located in Austin. The first game, played the night of June 1, felt to Mellano as if the stands had 10,000 Texas fans and 100 Brown fans.
The Bears had a 2-1 lead after six innings. “We actually had a really good showing,” Mellano said.
The Longhorns scored two runs in the seventh before adding five more runs in the bottom of the eighth to secure an 8-2 win. “We played them really tough until that eighth inning,” Mellano said.
Mellano, who bats right-handed, did not play against Texas; he was slated to pinch-hit against a left-handed Longhorn pitcher, but when a right-handed reliever was inserted a different batter was used.
The double-elimination tournament ended for Brown with a 4-2 loss to Wake Forest the morning of June 2. “We didn’t have quite as good a showing,” Mellano said. “We had some shots to win the game, but we really didn’t take advantage of it.”
Mellano appeared in the game on defense for one inning but did not bat. He did have the experience of playing against Allan Dykstra, a 2005 Rancho Bernardo graduate against whom Mellano had played in high school. “That was pretty cool,” Mellano said.
Mellano was also once a Fallbrook High School teammate of Brock Bardeen, who played for UC Irvine during the 2007 season but did not make the trip to Austin with the Anteaters.
Mellano noted that the Brown players were close to each other and played well together. “It was honestly probably the greatest season I’ve had in 15 years of playing baseball,” he said.