Delsea's Brad Dobzanski could be South Jersey's top baseball prospect

At the end of his junior season, Brad Dobzanski was a good pitcher for a good team, a tall, rangy righthander with a live arm and a lot of potential.

He was a good hitter, too.

But he didn't have any college scholarship offers.

He hadn't played for any high-powered travel teams or appeared in any national showcases.

And he wasn't mentioned among the top high school draft prospects in the class of 2017.

Since then, "things have exploded," according to the Delsea High School athlete.

Now a senior with a fastball that has touched 91 mph and improved off-speed stuff, Dobzanski has accepted a scholarship to the University of Kentucky.

After a strong summer with the 9ers Baseball Club in Wall and at Perfect Game tournaments and showcase events, Dobzanski has emerged as the South Jersey player most likely to be first off the board in the major-league baseball draft in June.

"Things have happened," Dobzanski said, "really fast."

Delsea coach Fran Ciociola has seen Dobzanski's rapid rise, at least in the eyes of those outside the Crusaders program and the athlete's circle of family and friends.

But to Ciociola, there has been nothing sudden or surprising about the change in Dobzanski's status. The coach says the pitcher's improvement has been incremental, the result of the near-daily grind.

"A lot of people think there's been this sudden change," Ciociola said. "To me, it's been steps. He's worked for it. This is a kid who played a little for us [on varsity] as a freshman. He was better as a sophomore.

"And last year, I saw it. He was the kind of kid who would take the ball and say, 'Coach, I'll give this back to you at the end of the game.' "

Dobzanski was 4-3 on the mound for Delsea last season with a 1.50 ERA. He struck out 46 in 381/3 innings.

He was one of the Crusaders' top hitters, too, with a .387 batting average. He had a team-high 24 hits with eight doubles and 23 RBIs.

After the season, Dobzanski decided to join the 9ers organization, where his brother Bryan had played during his high school career.

Bryan Dobzanski, a two-time state wrestling champion and one of the top all-around athletes in South Jersey history, was a 29th-round pick by St. Louis in the 2014 draft. He signed with the Cardinals and is projected to pitch for their single-A minor-league team in Peoria, Ill., this season.

"He tells me just to have fun with it," Brad Dobzanski said. "He says not to think too hard, just slow everything down, take it all in, especially being my last season in high school."

Brad Dobzanski said working with 9ers coaches and trainers after his 2016 high school season helped him improve the velocity on his fastball by around 4 or 5 mph. He also benefited from exposure to better competition.

Previously, Dobzanski said, he had played for a "township all-star team" during the summer.

"I wasn't on these big travel teams, so I didn't really know any better," Dobzanski said. "Playing for the 9ers, going to Perfect Game tournaments and showcases, I started to get noticed."

Dobzanski narrowed his college choices down to Kentucky, Louisville (where his brother had committed before signing with the Cardinals), and Virginia.

He opted for Kentucky because of his relationship with the coaching staff and desire to pitch in the Southeastern Conference.

"They've got a brand-new look with a lot of energy," Dobzanski said of Kentucky baseball. "They really liked me as a prospect."

The same can be said of major-league scouts. Baseball America has Dobzanski ranked as the No. 43 high school prospect in the nation.

"That's awesome," Dobzanski said. "Not a lot of kids get those kinds of opportunites, to be recognized among the top players in the country. It's a blessing."

By the late summer and fall, Dobzanski was used to pitching with college and professional scouts clustered behind the backstop with radar guns.

He's likely to take the mound before large crowds of scouts in every outing for Delsea this spring.

"It doesn't even bother me," Dobzanski said. "I block it out. It's just me and the catcher."

Ciociola said Dobzanski's greatest strength as a pitcher is his command.

"He can locate," Ciociola said. "He hits the mitt and he hits the mitt hard."

Dobzanski said he is looking forward to his senior season since he's been playing with many members of the Delsea team "since we were little."

Not so long ago, he was just another one of guys. Now he's the pitcher with the scholarship to the big-time program and the one who likely will have to decide on college or professional baseball after the draft.

"No pressure," Dobzanski said. "I just want to go out there and have fun and stay within myself. Whatever happens, happens."

panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

philly.com/jerseysidesports