Braeden Fausnaught has a knack for making the best of a bad situation.

When he was turned down by his dream university, he opted to play baseball at a community college where his performance paved the way to numerous junior college accolades and an NCAA Division II scholarship.

After an illness in his family forced Fausnaught to change which school he was going to attend, he put together one of the best pitching performances in West Chester University history.

Now the Danville graduate is hoping to hear his name called in the MLB draft this weekend.

“It’s been a long journey, that’s for sure,” Fausnaught said.

After closing his prep career at Danville with a 9-3 record and a 2.22 ERA in three seasons, Fausnaught was planning to hang up his glove and study business at Penn State.

“I didn’t even expect to play baseball after high school,” Fausnaught said. “I applied to Penn State College of Business and got rejected. Thankfully, coach (Tom) Eller down at Harford (Community College) gave me a chance to play. Now, I am where I am. Things work out and everything happens for a reason.”

As a sophomore with the Fighting Owls, Fausnaught was named a junior college All-American, just the second in program history.

“He’s gotten bigger and stronger, but he still has the knowledge of how to pitch,” Danville baseball coach Devin Knorr said. “You really saw that at Harford, and that was further developed at West Chester. He’s an outstanding example of work ethic and mindset, a perfect example of what you can do if you put forth the effort and have a plan.”

After his breakout season at Harford, Fausnaught was set to head to Tennessee to pitch for Lee University, but once again his plan was disrupted.

“Two days before I left for Lee, my dad had a stroke,” Fausnaught said, adding his father is doing well now. “I ended up coming back home to help my family out. I took him to appointments while my mom was working.

“I took my classes online from Lee. I was trying to maintain my throwing and my lifting. There was a lot going on in life, so it was a tough six months. Then COVID hit, so it was a tough year-and-a-half. Thankfully, I have a good support system.”

With a newfound desire to stay closer to home, Fausnaught needed to find a different place to pitch.

“Restarting the recruiting process a few days before Christmas, you don’t have much time to find a place,” Fausnaught said. “Thankfully I found probably the best place for me to play, which was West Chester.”

Fausnaught went 9-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 104 innings this past season at West Chester, and helped the Golden Rams reach the Division II World Series. Fausnaught’s 130 strikeouts set a single-season program record.

“He is an absolute workhorse,” West Chester second-year coach Mike LaRosa said. “It helps when your best pitcher is your hardest worker.”

That work ethic shone through when Fausnaught played for Knorr, as well.

“One of the things you could tell about Braeden is he was always an extremely hard worker,” Knorr said. “He also had the belief he was going to make it. He put forth maximum effort as a pitcher and got better and better each year, both at Danville and since then. I’m super-proud of what he’s accomplished athletically.”

When West Chester’s season ended at the hands of eventual national champion North Greenville, Fausnaught was ready for the next step. After a couple of innings in a men’s league to stay sharp, the next step was joining the Trenton Thunder of the MLB Draft League.

“It’s been a process, but my coaches have really helped me out with it,” Fausnaught said. “I’m very appreciative of what they’ve done for me.”

In his Trenton debut, Fausnaught struck out four in two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk.

“It felt like playing baseball,” Fausnaught said. “The PSAC is a good level. You could tell they were good hitters (in the draft league), but I felt like I faced good hitters all year. ... Staying focused and calm was probably the biggest thing, especially the first time out.”

In five appearances with the Thunder, Fausnaught is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in eight innings. He has 11 strikeouts and opponents are hitting .148 against him.

“I like being aggressive, and trying to work the inner half of the plate,” Fausnaught said. “Then I want to throw the change-up down and away. When it’s down, it’s pretty good. Sometimes I leave it up and give up some moon shots. It’s trying to pound guys, work inside with the fastball to make them move their feet and make them uncomfortable. If you move the ball in and out, and up and down you can have success.

“The change-up is definitely my best secondary pitch. I had a lot of success with that in (my debut) with Trenton.”

Now Fausnaught is hoping to hear his name called during the MLB Draft, which runs from Sunday to Tuesday.

“That’s the goal,” Fausnaught said. “I’m not sure when or if it will happen, but to get drafted or be a senior signee, just to keep playing baseball, would be an amazing opportunity.”

Headed to Harford

Fausnaught said it didn’t take him long to get over the disappointment of not being accepted at Penn State.

“Ultimately when I got rejected from Penn State, I figured I’d just keep playing,” Fausnaught said. “I didn’t really think it was a sign at the time, but I now know that everything happens for a reason. You just control what you can control, and try to take advantage of every opportunity.”

Seizing an opportunity became a theme for Fausnaught while he was at Harford. When he showed up to practice the first day in Maryland, there were 80 players trying to make the baseball team.

“I had a good first year, but I was expecting to redshirt,” Fausnaught said. “There was a lefty who was ineligible, so they called me about two weeks before the season was supposed to start, and said, ‘Can you throw? Can you play?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, of course.’ I’m never going to say no to that opportunity.”

Fausnaught was dominant in his second year with the Fighting Owls. He went 13-1 in two seasons, posting a minuscule 1.75 ERA as a sophomore.

“When you look at his story, one thing you see is he accomplishes what he puts his mind to,” Knorr said. “When he changed his body, you could see his high ceiling.”

Fausnaught grew 4 or 5 inches since high school and lost 25 pounds. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound lefty also added about 10 miles per hour to his fastball.

“I had a great second year,” Fausnaught said. “I was just playing baseball and trying to get an opportunity to continue playing. It was definitely a breakout season for me.”

Fausnaught, who was named to Harford’s Team of the Decade, ranks in the top seven in program history in wins (13), strikeouts (127) and ERA (2.54) for a career.

Starring at West Chester

When Fausnaught’s plans to pitch at Lee changed due to his desire to help at home in the aftermath of his father’s stroke, he still wanted to continue to play. However, he had to get creative.

“I was throwing to my buddies from high school, who didn’t even play baseball,” Fausnaught said. “Some days I would feel good and throw hard, and that was interesting. I was reaching out to different people just to play catch.”

That work allowed Fausnaught to be ready when he got to West Chester. He went 6-2 across the 2020 and 2021 seasons, before his record-setting year on the mound as a graduate student.

“I think it was the preparation,” Fausnaught said. “As a team, as a group, we worked hard. ... This was probably the greatest team I’ve ever been a part of. We were a tight-knit group. Guys were able to put aside being an individual for the betterment of the team. That’s how you achieve great things as an individual — pushing the team forward.”

As good as Fausnaught was during the regular season, he reached new heights in the postseason.

Fausnaught allowed one run in seven innings, striking out 12, in West Chester’s regional opener. He then came back to start a winner-take-all game on just one day of rest.

“I definitely don’t have a rubber arm,” Fausnaught said. “Coach said it best. He said, ‘We were flirting with crazy.’ In those high-pressure situations, I want to be the guy with the ball in his hand. When I was younger I didn’t feel that way, but now when I don’t have the ball I feel almost more nervous.”

Fausnaught allowed two runs in four innings, and the Golden Rams won to advance.

“He emptied the tank, and gave us everything he had left,” LaRosa said.

Fausnaught then earned a complete-game victory in the Super Regional, despite a rain delay that forced the game to be played over consecutive days.

He then started West Chester’s World Series opener against eventual champion North Greenville, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings of a loss. It was the fifth time the Crusaders were held to three or fewer runs in their 62nd game of the season.

“It was a good performance, but it’s hard to have a moral victory, even in hindsight,” Fausnaught said. “I think if we won that game, we would have a good chance to win the national championship, taking the same path that they took.”

Fausnaught then closed his collegiate career by going eight-up, eight-down in relief against North Greenville later in the tournament.

“I definitely wanted to get into that game,” Fausnaught said. “It was unfortunate we had a four-run deficit. When I came in that game, I felt like I had to do something to get the team going and keep us in the game.

“I needed to do my job. There was a lot of emotion and adrenaline in that moment.”

Next steps

During the season, Fausnaught focused on school and West Chester baseball, figuring he could deal with what came next when the season was over.

“I didn’t really need any more pressure than facing the guy in the box,” Fausnaught said.

After the season, though, LaRosa told him that scouts had come to see Fausnaught pitch, and gave LaRosa good reports on his star pitcher.

“I wasn’t really focused on anything other than controlling what I can control, which was pitching every time I got the ball,” Fausnaught said. “I didn’t really ask about it until the end of the year. I was hoping people were paying attention.”

Now the Danville graduate is testing himself against a higher level of competition at Trenton and hoping to make another significant jump later this summer. So far, his pitching style has worked at every level he has played.

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