Zach Bradford left an imprint on every high school team he played against this year, and now he is ready to make his mark at the college level.
There will not be a high school team, with the exception of Watson Chapel, that will miss Bradford. The 5-foot, 11-inch pitcher did not lose a game this year for Watson Chapel, going 10-0 with a 0.98 ERA and 77 strikeouts. Bradford also got the start for the Wildcats in the Class 5A state championship game against White Hall.
Those accomplishments earned the just-graduated senior the Pine Bluff Commercial’s Southeast Arkansas Pitcher of the Year title.
“It’s a big surprise to me, but I did get it and I would like to thank all of my teammates and my coach,” Bradford said. “There are a bunch of good pitchers out there and I just try my best.”
His best is what he gave in every game since he finished with an unblemished record. The perfect year may have caught more than a few people by surprise since he was used more as a relief pitcher his junior year.
It even caught Bradford by surprise.
“I actually didn’t think I would have this good of a season,” he said. “I didn’t think at all I would have an undefeated season pitching. I just took each game one by one and by the end of the year, it turned out well.”
Watson Chapel coach Chad Cope said Bradford just came into his own this year and became a consistent pitcher from the very beginning of the year.
“I rode him a little more this year and he just seemed to get better and better,” Cope said. “His record and stats kind of speak for themselves. He was huge. I put a lot of confidence behind him and knew he was going to compete.”
Now Bradford hopes his impressive senior season, not just on the mound, caught the eye of college scouts. Bradford also batted .494 with 20 RBIs and played first base when he was not pitching.
Cope said he has heard from Ole Miss and Centenary about Bradford and a couple other junior colleges have show interest in him.
“He’s got some options,” he said.
Bradford said he has not heard from Ole Miss personally, but he would more than welcome the chance to play in Oxford, Miss.
“Coach Cope has gotten a couple of calls, but I haven’t heard anything from them,” he said. “It would be a great opportunity to be able to do that, and to play anywhere would be a great opportunity.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff has offered Bradford a chance to stay at home and play for the Golden Lions. Bradford said UAPB expressed interest in him as a hitter and he would get a chance to pitch.
With the success he had on the mound and in the batter’s box during his senior season, Bradford is hoping to continue doing both in college.
“I love to pitch and I love to hit,” he said. “I like to see how I square up against top-notch pitchers and I want to see what I am capable of.”
Bradford throws a fastball in the mid-80s and he adds in a curveball. His least thrown pitch is his change-up, but the pitch that sets him apart is his split-finger fastball.
Bradford does not know of another high school pitcher that used that pitch, and he used it effectively.
“I do use it often and I used it a lot in the championship game,” he said. “It’s a pitch if you leave up, good hitters can hit it and try and I keep control of it.”
The split-finger is just another pitch that can stand out to the college scouts for Bradford, and that’s just what he is looking for — an opportunity.
“Just hope someone takes a chance on me and just go wherever I can play baseball,” Bradford said.