Before ever playing a single inning of his sophomore baseball season with the O'Fallon Panthers, talented left-handed pitcher-outfielder Bradley Harrison already has locked up a scholarship.
Harrison recently visited Southern Illinois University Carbondale and was sold enough on the program to make an extremely early verbal commitment to the Salukis.
"I didn't really feel the need to wait," said Harrison, who hit .277 with six RBIs while starting more than half of O'Fallon's games as a freshman. "This was the top school on my list and once they made the offer, I decided there's no sense in waiting. I just decided to do it now."
Harrison (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) also pitched one inning on the varsity last fall and will be given a chance to both pitch and play a position in college.
Underclass commitments have been fairly common in football, basketball and volleyball in recent years, but also have become vogue in baseball and softball as well.
"It shows they're willing to invest in his upside and potential," said O'Fallon coach Jason Portz, who noted Harrison is the first sophomore in his program to make a Division I commitment.
"We rarely have a kid commit even in the early November signing period. A lot of times in our sport the kids are committing sometime during their senior year or sometimes during the summer."
Harrison also had interest from other schools and said he recently visited Missouri, but one trip to SIU is all it took.
Two current metro-east seniors, Mascoutah pitcher Ryan Netemeyer and Wesclin shortstop Michael Klein, signed with the Salukis in November.
Former O'Fallon High standout Nick Johnson also played for SIUC. Former Granite City and Southwestern Illinois College standout Cody Daily, a senior infielder, and former Greenville pitcher Todd Eaton are on the current Salukis' roster.
"We walked around the school and everything seemed to meet all my personal requirements in a college," Harrison said. "It seemed like it would take a lot of pressure off me and it was a good fit in a college, so I did it because of that."
Portz said SIUC watched video on Harrison and also watched him at a showcase event.
"They decided he was a kid they'd like to take an early chance on," Portz said. "He's obviously going to be a prominent offensive player. He's going to be able to sit in the middle of our lineup somewhere. ... He's just going to be a model of consistency for us over the next several years."
Harrison's mother, Debbie Harrison, grew up in Nashville and played college basketball at Western Illinois University.