COSTA MESA — Ever since he graduated from Palisades High in 2007, J.R. Bromberg has been the little brother who could.
Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2007 and 2008, the latter after his freshman year at Los Angeles Pierce Community College, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-handed pitcher has teased scouts and college coaches alike with an above-average fastball, a fluid motion, a big-league physique and impressive genes.
But unlike his older brother David, who has risen to the Triple-A ranks in six professional seasons in the Twins' organization, J.R. has been beaten up and bounced around.
But if Saturday's performance for Vanguard University is any indication, the Lions senior has finally found a home and, perhaps, a stage to showcase himself for yet another professional opportunity.
Bromberg threw a four-hit shutout to key a 5-0 win over visiting Oregon Tech in the first game of a nonconference doubleheader.
In his second start of the season, he got 18 ground-ball outs and three more on infield pops. He struck out three, walked one and hit three batters. Only one Oregon Tech runner reached third base.
"That is the best game I've ever pitched," Bromberg said after the first nine-inning performance of his life. "It's crazy, because I'm only on four days rest. But my pitch count was down [111 pitches]. My first start I threw 80 pitches in four innings. That last out [on a game-ending double play, the second of two turned by the Lions defense that committed two errors behind him] honestly was really enjoyable."
Bromberg has enjoyed little if any success the last three seasons. Though experiencing no major health problems, he threw just 42/3 innings at Cal State Los Angeles last season. He allowed eight hits and seven earned runs.
Two seasons ago, he did not pitch at Fresno State, at which he had signed after two seasons at Pierce. As a sophomore for the Brahmas in 2009, he was 2-2 with a 12.00 earned-run average in 21 innings, spanning eight appearances and four starts.
After Saturday's gem, the former All-CIF City Section standout who was the Western League MVP as a senior in 2007, has surrendered just two earned runs and 10 hits in 13 innings for the Lions, who seized a 3-0 lead after two innings. Bromberg is 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA.
Oregon Tech got its first hit, a bounding ball to the third baseman, with two outs in the fifth inning.
The shutout was the second straight for Vanguard, which extended its scoreless-innings streak to 22 when Oregon Tech scored in the third inning of Game 2.
Bromberg, 22, said he is comfortable at Vanguard and excited about his final collegiate season.
"We've got a great group of guys and I love the coaching staff," said Bromberg, who credited first-year pitching coach Sean Urena with calling a seamless game Saturday. "This is the first school I've been at where I really enjoy everything and everyone. I definitely want to advance to the next level, but I want to focus on this year and make the playoffs."
Bromberg threw 73 strikes and threw a first-pitch strike to 24 of the 35 batters he faced.
"The arm works, we knew that," Grajeda said of Bromberg, who he noted has benefited from some minor mechanical adjustments made by Urena.
Senior third baseman Eric Sanchez went three for four with one run batted in to pace Vanguard's 11-hit attack.
Junior second baseman Adonis Tountas and junior right fielder Hank Yates both went two for four with a run scored and senior center fielder J.R. Truhett drove in two runs with a triple.
Seven Vanguard starters had at least one hit and all nine reached base.
In the second game: Junior Michael Castello's walk-off, pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh keyed the 2-1 triumph to complete the sweep.
Junior Scott Simmons allowed three hits and one earned run in seven innings to get the win and improve to 2-0.
The Lions, whose team ERA is now 1.10 this season, improved to 4-1.
The Hustlin' Owls are 2-5.
Vanguard 5, Oregon Tech 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
OT 000 000 000 – 0 4 0
VU 120 001 10x – 5 11 2
Hayden, Allen (3), Kizzlar (6), Barrett (8) and Dahl; Bromberg and N. Tountas. W – Bromberg, 1-1. L – Hayden, 0-1. 2B – Rosales (VU). 3B – Truhett (VU).
Vanguard 2, Oregon Tech 1
SCORE BY INNINGS
OT 001 000 0 – 1 3 1
VU 100 000 1 – 2 5 0
Earle and Jernberg; Simmons and Salazar. W – Simmons, 2-0. L – Earle. 2B – Truhett (VU). 3B – Yates (VU).