For Cade Bradley, it’s hard to argue he doesn’t do a lot for Piedmont sports. The senior is one of Piedmont’s few returning starters from the 2012 Class 3A state baseball runner-up team. He also started at quarterback this past fall for the football squad.
And as Piedmont (25-8) prepares to host Mars Hill Bible (28-15) in the 3A state quarterfinals Friday and Saturday, Bradley is a core member of the Bulldogs. Not only does he have an 8-2 pitching record with a 2.78 ERA, he is hitting .481 at the plate with six homers and 29 RBIs. He has struck out only five times.
“He was a junior last year and he was one of the leaders, so he just came in this year doing what he did last year,” Piedmont baseball coach James Blanchard said. “He’s just one of those guys that when he’s on the mound or at the plate, good things are going to happen.”
And yet, when Game 1 of the state playoffs arrived three weeks ago, Bradley tried to do too much on the mound against Cleveland. His outing lasted only five batters, all of whom walked and later scored.
“At the start of the season, I was relaxed and having fun, but toward the playoffs it kind of hit me a little harder and I tried to do too much in the first round,” Bradley said. “I was trying to overthrow and couldn’t find my spots. I just didn’t feel like I was on that day and I tried to do way more than I should have done.”
Piedmont went on to lose the game 13-4.
“Out of two years, one bad game isn’t too bad. A lot of people are worse than that,” Blanchard said. “But I’m not going to blame it on Cade. There were times it was called a ball and I thought it was a strike, but I’m not going to get into that.”
However, in the same way that the Bulldogs bounced back and won the second game 26-3, Bradley responded like a leader when he was called upon to start Game 3.
“I just felt like I had to and I knew it could be the last game of my high school career and I knew I just had to go out there and throw strikes,” Bradley said. “I knew the defense would make plays for me.”
Bradley threw a complete-game six-hitter, allowing three unearned runs and striking out two batters in a 7-3 win. It didn’t hurt that he got support from the defense, and Payton Young hit three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to break open a one-run game.
“Our bats have been going since I took over the program because I believe in hitting,” Blanchard said. “I think we scored 54 runs last year before we went to the state championship and I think we’re at 57 or 58 right now.”
Bradley was back to his old ways in the second round against Glencoe, even though he had at least one runner reach base in all but one inning. After an unearned run crossed in the first inning, the defense held Glencoe off the board, and Piedmont won 11-1.
“It gives you a lot of confidence knowing that no runners are crossing the plate,” Bradley said. “We were able to get them out at second if they got on first. Even if they’d bunt them over into scoring position we’d still get them out, making great plays.”
That win set up Piedmont with a quarterfinal matchup with fourth-ranked Mars Hill Bible. But don’t think the ranking intimidates Bradley or Piedmont.
“I just know Mars Hill has some good pitchers,” Bradley said. “But with the way we’ve been hitting the ball it isn’t anything to be worried about.”
As for the team, Blanchard said Piedmont is worrying about Piedmont this week.
“Right now, I kind of look at it different than probably most coaches,” he said. “I look at it that what we do is more important than what other people do. Not that we’re not going to scout them really well, but we’re going to work on what we do.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star