Port St. Lucie, FL - PORT ST. LUCIE, FL- They saved the best for last. After Westminster Christian defeated Shorecrest Prep 6-0 to take the 2A title, Pace HS and Armwood HS met for the nightcap with the 5A state title at stake.
It went into extra innings tied 5-5 before Pace won in the bottom of the eighth on a walk-off single with the bases loaded. It was an exciting game and even though there were six errors, it was well-played on both sides. It was one of those games where you hated to see either team lose, but the Tampa-area Armwood Hawks eventually succumbed to their rivals from the panhandle.
I was able to watch the Pace stars again as shortstop Addison Russell was hitting in his familiar cleanup hole and lefty CT Bradford got the win pitching six innings of relief the day after a four-inning winning start. He came out on top of Armwood’s Tyler Alexander, a fellow senior lefty who also pitched brilliantly in relief and has pro potential himself.
CT BRADFORD’S AMAZING TWO DAYS OVERSHADOWS FINE EFFORT OF ARMWOOD LEFTY
What Bradford did on Monday and Tuesday will go down in FHSAA lore. He won both state tournament games for the Patriots and threw a combined ten innings. He also went 3-5 at the plate in the semifinal, then 0-3 with two walks in the final.
The stuff was every bit as good as the day before, Bradford pitched at 86-88 MPH with good sinking and tailing action on his fastball. He snapped off some sharp curveballs as well (70-73 MPH) and I believe that the bender will become at least a solid-average major league pitch. Bradford’s line for the day read 6IP, 3H, 2R/0ER, 2BB, and 4K. He was still hitting 88 MPH in the eighth inning, Bradford’s velocity changed hardly at all over his ten innings of work.
A couple other things came at me while watching him from a seat much closer to home plate than where I was Monday. One, I think he’s closer to 5’8” than his listed 5’9”, not that I think it makes any difference. Two, his body language is outstanding, exactly what I look for in a young player. The more the pressure, the more confident Bradford became and this is something that can not be teached or learned.
Every action of his had intent and purpose, whether it was pitching, hitting, or fielding. Many pitchers act shell-shocked when a ball gets hit to them, but Bradford was all over it. In the fourth inning he started a double play after catching a bunt in the air and firing instantly to first to get the runner. Later that inning, Bradford fielded a ground ball hit to the right side and tossed quickly to the first baseman who completely missed it.
The ball careened to the dugout and by the time I looked back to Bradford, he was already covering second base. It may not sound like much, but it’s very natural to sulk after failure and disappointment, and to forget what to do next. It happens to big leaguers all the time. Bradford showed the resiliency to forget about the first baseman’s mis-play and get back to work in milliseconds. The ability to handle failure is one of the greatest attributes a hopeful major leaguer can have and on this day, Bradford graded high in that category.
We’ll see where he gets taken in the draft, Bradford is headed to Mississippi State otherwise. I do believe his pitchability, his intangibles, and the looseness in his arm separate him from the typical undersized lefty who gets drafted out of high school. Will any major league teams see it that way?
Tyler Alexander came in from center field to pitch in the fifth and shut the door himself. He didn’t give up an earned run in his 3.1 innings of work, yielding two hits and two walks while striking out four. The winning run he gave up in the eighth was unearned.
Alexander is a 6’1”, 175 pounder with a funky delivery, but he threw 85-89 MPH with good running/sinking movement and mixed in a slow 67-70 MPH curveball that kept Pace hitters off balance. I couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t chosen to start after watching him pitch in relief.
What’s atypical about Alexander’s delivery is that he collapses his back-side, brings his arm to a three-quarter slot, and then throws a little bit across his body. It leads to good deception and movement, and to me he had decent command for a high school kid. Personally, I’d want him to keep pitching that way and getting outs, but I know a number of pro pitching coaches who’d try to keep him upright longer so he could exploit his lower half and throw harder. I don’t doubt he’d throw harder, but it won’t necessarily translate into a better pitcher because he’ll lose his movement, deception, and probably his control.
To the best of my knowledge, Alexander has not signed with a school. I know he’s received mild attention from scouts who’ve also come to Armwood to watch University of Florida-bound righty Zack Powers, but I don’t know if anyone plans to draft him. He’s another sleeper, either way.
PACE SOPHOMORE SS ADDISON RUSSELL SHOWS MORE OF THE SAME
Russell went 1-2 with two runs batted in and two walks as the Armwood Hawks understandably pitched around him. His single up the middle drove in the first two runs of the game in the first inning.
He really showed a quick bat today and also a patient approach at the plate. In every at-bat, Russell worked the count and this time he didn’t swing at anything out of the zone.
I was finally able to time him down to first. On his single, Russell rounded the bag in 4.5 seconds. On a later ground-out, Russell went home-to-first in 4.25. They correlate to a solid-average major league runner right now. I believe he will get a little bit faster by the time he’s a senior, his lower-half is still getting stronger and more coordinated.
Defensively, Russell was again very good, making all the routine plays, and starting a couple of impressive deuces.
NOTES FROM CLASS 2A FINAL (WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN 6, SHORECREST PREP 0): Neither of the 2A finalists had any surefire pro prospects, though they were both very solid high school teams. Westminster sophomore shortstop David Thompson had a tremendous season, hitting .489 with 16 HR and 44 RBI coming into the tournament. He has a chance to become a hitting prospect, Thompson’s righthanded mechanics are decent and his approach sound. He doesn’t have big league bat-speed or pop to translate to wood right now, but is worth a pro follow in the future. At 6’1” and about 180 lbs, he has room on his frame to grow. Defensively, Thompson made all the routine plays but he doesn’t have the pure actions of an infielder. I see him as a third baseman in college or pro ball well down the road….. Westminster junior righty Julian Loret de Mola pitched a two-hit shutout mainly with fastballs and cut fastballs. His arm works okay and his delivery is well-balanced with a good finish. Coming over-the-top, Loret de Mola threw 85-86 MPH with his two-seamer and 81-83 MPH with what I called the cutter. He has a pretty strong build at 6’2”, 190 lbs. Definitely a D1 prospect and a chance to become a pro draft at some point, but he’ll need a little more arm-strength and something else off-speed….. Shorecrest Prep starting pitcher Marc Brakeman is just a sophomore and he’s also a pro and high-D1 college follow. Brakeman doesn’t have a smooth delivery or particularly easy arm-action, but it may come as the 5’9”, 155 lb righty grows, gets stronger, and gains more body control over the next two years. He showed 86-87 MPH and the makings of a big league-usable curveball. Brakeman also catches and swings the bat okay, he just doesn’t have the strength to project with swinging wood just yet.