College Sports

He struggled as freshman at SIUC. Here’s how he re-established his confidence.

Brad Harrison
Brad Harrison SIU Carbondale photo

Brad Harrison wasn’t pleased about his freshman baseball season at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is on a mission to do something about it.

Harrison, an outfielder, designated hitter and pitcher, recently wrapped up a summer with the Quincy Gems of the 10-team Prospect League that features college players and wood bats.

Progress was made. A firmer foundation was laid. Confidence was re-established.

Harrison, 19, a graduate of O’Fallon High, batted .315 with a league-high 23 doubles, eight home runs and 45 RBIs in 57 games. He coaxed 34 walks and posted a .410 on-base percentage. Harrison was 10-for-19 (.526) with two doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in his final five games of the season to earn Player of the Week honors.

“When you finish the summer like that, it definitely feels really good and gives you a lot of confidence coming into the fall,” said Harrison, who bats and throws left-handed. “I was relaxed. Everything stayed together in my swing; it felt real good. I really wasn’t trying to do too much, and I ended up doing more.”

Trying to do too much perhaps contributed to Harrison’s eye-opening transition from high school to Division I baseball. He played in 27 games but was just 1-for-7 at the plate (.143) and 0-3 with a 7.09 ERA in 22 games and 26 2/3 innings on the mound.

As a senior at O’Fallon in 2016, Harrison was the Belleville News-Democrat’s Large-School Player of the Year. He batted .402 with 12 doubles, six home runs and 35 RBIs, along with a 12-0 record, 0.47 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 89 2/3 innings.

“I tried to do too much,” Harrison reflected about his freshman season with the Salukis. “I tried to play too well, almost, and it ended up hurting me a lot. I played scared a lot. I tried to be too fine pitchingwise. It was not the me I knew in high school.

“So this year, I’m trying to come in with a lot of confidence that I gained from this summer. Just stay calm, stay relaxed and play the game the way I know how. I have to trust my ability and trust what I’ve been doing my entire life.”

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Harrison, who also can play first base, still has designs on being a two-way player at SIUC. He said the competition in the Missouri Valley Conference exceeds what he saw in the Prospect League, and if his approach and swing are where he wants them, he believes the numbers will be there.

“When I can stay shorter and just try try to drive gaps, I’ll find the barrel and hit it over the fence,” Harrison said. “But if I can keep my approach with singles and doubles, with strong, long at-bats, I think I can have a lot of success. But as soon as I try to hit home runs or hit the ball as far as I can, I’ll start struggling with lazy ground balls, lazy fly balls.”

Harrison, the son of Rich and Debbie Harrison, describes himself as a “pitcher who is going to try to hit as long as he can.”

“I think I have a higher ceiling pitching; there’s more potential there,” Harrison said. “But I definitely think I can hit at this level and hopefully, eventually, at the next level.”

Harrison said he enjoys hitting equally as much as pitching.

“There’s no better feeling than being in control on the mound,” he said. “But there’s no worse feeling than not being in control on the mound. It’s a two-way street there. Hitting, when you’re swinging well, it’s awesome. When you’re not, it’s a terrible experience, and you feel like there’s no way out.

“The potential is there; the confidence is there. Now I need to go do it myself.” 

David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm