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Bradley will go marching in with the Saints

Former Demon signs to pitch for Limestone

Posted: June 5, 2017 4:40 p.m.
Updated: June 6, 2017 1:00 a.m.
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LUGOFF-ELGIN’S JOHN BRADLEY signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his academic and baseball-playing endeavors at Limestone College while flanked by his parents, Shawn and Nikki Bradley along with his younger sister, Emma. Standing, from left, are L-E assistant principal Jeff Carraway, L-E head baseball coach Randy Stokes, L-E pitching coach Jeremy Ray, L-E athletic director Mat Campbell and L-E assistant baseball coach Joe Harvley.

In a generation in which youth baseball players play the sport year ’round with more than one youngster having developed arm trouble, getting a pitcher with what scout’s like to describe as a “live” arm is becoming harder and harder to find.

This past season, John Bradley worked all of 18.2 innings on the mound for a stacked pitching corps at Lugoff-Elgin. The wear and tear on the senior right-hander’s arm was minimal. So when Limestone College was looking for a pitcher whose best days are probably ahead of him, they found the man they were looking for in Bradley.

At 6-foot-2, Bradley has the long body pitching coaches like. Add in a fresh arm and the perfect attitude and the Saints were able to march right in and sign the recent L-E graduate.

Bradley made things official by signing a National Letter of Intent with Chris Wiley’s program at a ceremony held inside L-E’s Wellness Center.

“It fit what I really wanted in a college,” Bradley said after signing with Limestone. “It’s a small college and the coaches were very nice; they were everything I wanted in college coaches. I’m excited and blessed.”

L-E head coach Randy Stokes said Bradley is all the Saints would want in a player and a person.

“One of the most quality kids whose ever played in the Lugoff-Elgin baseball program in the 25 years that I’ve been here,” Stokes said when asked to describe Bradley.

“John’s a soft-spoken guy. He works hard every day, he makes good grades and he does what he’s supposed to do on and off the field. He’s just a quality kid. John is going to do well at Limestone and he’s going to do well in his life.”

This past season, Bradley split time pitching and playing third base for the Demons. On the mound, he appeared in eight games with a pair of starts and finished with a 1-2 record. He had 18 strikeouts while pitching to a 1.50 earned run average.

Coming into his senior campaign, Bradley saw most of his time in the field before being given more opportunities to pitch this past spring. When he arrives at Limestone’s Gaffney campus, he will have an arm with low mileage on it; something which cannot be discounted when talking about a college pitcher.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing because I’ll have a fresh arm. That’s going to benefit me the most because I feel there is still more velocity that I can get out of my arm,” he said.

As a former pitcher in high school, college and in the professional ranks, Stokes said college coaches appreciate bringing in a pitcher who is still learning his craft and one who has not had arm troubles or, has logged a substantial number of innings at the high school level.

“John hasn’t finished going to where he needs to get,” he said. “He has a ways to go as far as reaching where he wants to go. His potential is untapped, in my opinion. 

“If he makes another jump, which he should … his jump from his junior to senior year was unbelievable as far as arm strength and his stuff were concerned. He’s going to have to make another jump when he gets to Limestone and most kids who go from high school to college make more jumps.”

Bradley hit a growth spurt in his final two seasons with the Demons and that has led to a change in him as a pitcher. L-E pitching coach Jeremy Ray said Bradley is just coming into his own on the mound and expects the Saints’ staff to smooth out any rough edges.

“John has gotten more physical as he has gotten older. With his velocity getting up and with his breaking ball being the way it is, his physical side if going to be able to withstand a lot more,” Ray said.

“Once he gets into program in college where he is working year ‘round, basically, he should be able to stay strong throughout the course of the season.”

With the fastball and slider as his two signature pitches, Bradley said he continues to work on a 12-to-6 curveball which he hopes to add to his repertoire. “I believe that can benefit me in college,” he said of having a breaking ball in his arsenal. “I also have to work on getting a little more movement on my changeup and fastball.”

As a starting pitcher, Bradley will need more than just two pitchers, as opposed to a closer.

“John’s curveball kind of turned into a slider when his velocity jumped up. It was a natural thing, at the time,” Ray said. “He’s going to need some kind of change-up (pitch) to be effective because velocity’s good but it’s very common at the next level. Something that can slow down their bats will help him.”

Bradley, who is playing summer ball with the Kershaw County Post 17 American Legion team, agreed with what Ray said as he talked about the challenge of facing hitters at the college level. “The biggest difference is that they are going to be a lot stronger. It’s going to be a lot more aggressive swings,” he said of the change he is anticipating in college. “Everything is going to be a lot more fast-paced.”

Once he gets to Limestone, Bradley will become a one-position player as his third base days may well be behind him. That will only help him get better adjusted to being a pitcher and concentrating on one thing.

The other half of the equation is that Bradley has not logged many games on the mound and that can lead a young pitcher to get down on himself should things go bad during a game. That is one obstacle which he has to get over. Ray said all Bradley needs is to experience, and sustain, a little success to get him pointed in the right direction.

“One thing that he does lack, at times, is confidence,” he said. “John has to feel like he belongs out there because he does. He wouldn’t be going to play at Limestone if he didn’t belong there.”

As a college freshman, a pitcher can rely on his coach and a veteran catcher to help him with his pitch selection and what situation to throw which pitch. While Bradley said that will happen once he gets to Limestone, he said the responsibility as to what happens to him falls on his shoulders, as well. After all, he said, he is the one delivering the pitch to the plate and must be able to locate his pitches.

“A lot of that falls on me, too, because I’m the one up there throwing the ball,” he said about using his coach and catcher as a crutch.

That kind of thinking, Stokes said, speaks volumes as to the kind of young man Limestone is getting in John Bradley.

“John’s never been a kid who you had to worry about as far as his work ethic; he’s going to work. He’s going to try and be as good as he can be at things,” he said. “Whether it was third base, a hitter or a pitcher, he sells out and does his best to be the best player that he can be.”

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