Prep Baseball & Softball

O’Fallon’s Brad Harrison riding impressive wave of success

O'Fallon pitcher Brad Harrison has thrown four consecutive shutouts and is 10-0 this ssason with a 0.21 earned-run average.
O'Fallon pitcher Brad Harrison has thrown four consecutive shutouts and is 10-0 this ssason with a 0.21 earned-run average.

Remember the date — April 14.

That was last time someone scored a run against O’Fallon Panthers senior left-hander Brad Harrison.

Since allowing two runs in the sixth inning of a 12-2 win more than a month ago over the Edwardsville Tigers, Harrison has been about as close to perfect as a high school pitcher can get.

He’s riding a giant tsunami wave of success, washing over the opposition on the way to a 10-0 record with a 0.21 earned-run average. The Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit has allowed only two earned runs in 66 innings this season.

“It definitely feels good,” said Harrison, who has not allowed a run in his last 26 innings while tossing four consecutive shutouts. “I like the whole thought of being in control of the game and knowing the game is in your hands on the mound.

“I like to ride that and use that adrenalin, control the game and do as much as I can with it.”

During his current hot streak, Harrison has surrendered only nine hits in 26 innings while striking out 37 and walking four. His last start was a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts in an 11-0 victory that handed Edwardsville its first shutout in 80 games.

“It’s just rhythm and I’m in a good rhythm right now,” said the unassuming Harrison, now 25-3 during his career with the Panthers. “I just think it’s all about preparation. It all starts before the game, before the season even, preparing yourself to be ready to perform.”

Harrison and fellow seniors Camden Bauer, Dillon Weiss and Brad Snyder are a big reason why the Panthers (28-3) have already wrapped up the Southwestern Conference title. They are riding a 20-game win streak and are the region’s top seed in the Class 4A playoffs after reaching the super-sectional last season, with the team’s defense behind Harrison another key factor.

Before allowing those two runs April 14, Harrison had another stretch of 18 1/3 scoreless innings. His four consecutive shutouts have not come against outmanned competition or during a Saturday nonconference doubleheader; instead he has blanked Southwestern Conference foes Edwardsville (26-5 record), Belleville East (21-10), Alton (20-10) and Belleville West (18-6).

That’s three of the area’s five top-ranked teams — and they couldn’t deal with Harrison, either.

“He throws with good velocity, keeps the ball down and doesn’t make many mistakes,” Belleville West coach Todd Baltz said. “He does that pretty much every time out, not just against us. Even when we got someone on base, when he really wanted to get an out he seemed to have a little bit of another gear.”

“He’s been terrific, there’s no doubt,” O’Fallon coach Jason Portz said. “He’s been able to command all of his pitches. It’s very impressive to see what he’s been able to do against some very good opponents.

“It’s something that we haven’t seen in our program for a long time.”

Harrison has allowed only five runs total (two earned) in 66 innings while striking out 98 against 17 walks. He has six shutouts and has allowed 25 hits and five doubles, not surrendering a triple or home run.

Pitching at elite level

Looking for comparisons?

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jake Odorizzi put together one of the most mind-boggling seasons in metro-east baseball history in 2008 while leading Highland to the state title.

Odorizzi was 14-0 that year with 10 shutouts (one combined), a 0.08 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 89 2/3 innings. Drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round that season, he allowed only three runs all season, one earned, and gave up only one extra-base hit (a double).

Belleville West pitcher John Flanagan was 11-0 with a 0.96 ERA as a senior in 2007. Chicago Cubs draft pick Bryan Hudson was 10-2 with a 0.50 ERA last season for Alton, striking out 152 in 70 1/3 innings.

While Harrison doesn’t light up the radar gun with the velocity of those players, he’s still in the mid- to upper-80 mph range. He carves up hitters with pinpoint control, spotting a devastating slider and a slower curve ball with great effectiveness.

Pro scouts have been out to see Harrison this spring, but he hasn’t noticed. He’s too busy sending angry batters back to the dugout shaking their heads.

“I’m not worried about velocity or showing off for the (radar) gun or anything,” Harrison said. “It’s about hitting your spots, that’s more important than velo(city). It’s unfortunate the game has kind of turned into that and that’s where a lot of recruiting comes from is how hard are you going to throw.

“All four of my pitches have been pretty successful for me and I’ve been able to throw them all for strikes. If you can do that at the high school level, you’re going to have success.”

High maturity level

Harrison is also a solid hitter, currently at .354 with a team-leading three home runs and 27 RBIs. He originally committed to SIU as a hitter, but now has a chance to be a two-way player for the Salukis.

“I was recruited as a hitter and they still want me to hit down there, but pitching has definitely become more of an idea down there,” Harrison said. “Quite frankly I don’t know which one will rise over the other or if I can do both, but I’m excited to see where it goes.”

How many high school seniors say things like “quite frankly” as part of their normal speech pattern? Every coach interviewed for this story talked about Harrison’s unique maturity and work ethic, with Portz and O’Fallon pitching coach Nick Seibert both insisting he’s like having another coach on the field.

“He’s very adult in his actions and his behaviors,” Portz said. “He’s got a great future.”

Harrison and Seibert have been together since Harrison began taking pitching lessons from him in fifth grade.

The pair know each other so well that Harrison is never surprised by any of Seibert’s pitch calls.

“Even back then he always had a presence about him on the mound,” Seibert said. “He was eager to learn and at that age you’re trying to instill the right mechanics and techniques. He’s bought into the mechanics and the philosophy that we’re trying to teach.

“He’s a kid that just always bought into whatever you’re trying to each him - and he’s a special one.”

Harrison is quick to credit Seibert as well, saying he can almost read the minds of opposing hitters.

“Coach Seibert is a huge part of my success,” Harrison said. “He’s calling pitches. He knows the strategy of the game, he knows what hitters are thinking and how to get them out, and I wouldn’t have nearly the success I do without him calling pitches.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders