Bradley powers Piedmont to sweep
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Apr 28, 2012 | 3631 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PIEDMONT — Cade Bradley wants the ball or bat in his hands in the big moments, and he got it done both ways for Piedmont on Friday.

His two home runs provided the decisive runs in the Bulldogs’ sweep of White Plains in their second-round Alabama High School Athletic Association playoff series, and he won a pitching duel with Zach Cunningham in the nightcap.

Piedmont won 14-4 and 4-3 to earn a third-round series against Winfield at home, and Bradley foresees more big moments as the Bulldogs (25-9-1) chase a Class 3A title.

“I think we’ve got a good chance to win it all,” he said. “We ain’t stopping until we do.”

There was no stopping Bradley on Friday.

His grand slam home run to left-center field was the biggest blow in Piedmont’s seven-run fourth inning in the first game and put Piedmont up 6-1.

“It was a curve ball, and it was right down the middle,” Bradley said. “It’s the first grand slam I’ve ever hit.”

His solo home run to nearly the same spot put Piedmont up 4-3 in the top of the seventh inning of the second game.

“I was just relaxed, just trying to get a base hit,” he said. “When you just try to do that, you hit the ball a lot harder.”

His two home runs on the night gave him five on the season, the first since high schools switched to BBCOR bats.

He also came up big on the mound against Cunningham in the second game, allowing just four hits and four walks and striking out 10 batters in a complete-game effort.

After issuing three walks to help White Plains score two runs and end with the bases loaded in the first inning, Bradley allowed just one runner past second base.

Piedmont coach James Blanchard wasn’t surprised at Bradley’s performance in two playoff games against an area rival. He’s seen it before.

“Cade told me during the Weaver game we had to win the area championship, he said, ‘Coach, don’t worry about it. I‘ve got it,’” Blanchard said. “He told me earlier today, he said, ‘Coach, don’t worry about it. I’ve got it.’”

Piedmont needed everything Bradley could give in the second game Friday. Cunningham, White Plains’ ace, struck out 14 batters and allowed just three hits and four walks.

“Early on, I wasn’t that efficient, but later on in the game, I kind of settled in,” said Cunningham, who also hit a solo home run in the first game and went 3-for-3 with four walks on the night. “They’re good. They’re in the third round because they’re good. They can hit the ball.”

Ironically, Piedmont’s offense ignited its biggest rally without hitting the ball.

The Bulldogs led 2-1 going into the bottom of the fourth inning of the first game and started with a walk to Matt Strott, the seventh hitter in the order. No. 8 hitter Dillon Terry reached on a fielder’s choice plus a throwing error, and No. 9 hitter Cass McCord walked.

That loaded the bases for Bradley and set up his grand slam.

“That was huge,” Bradley said. “That got the momentum going our way.”

Piedmont sent 12 batters to the plate against three White Plains pitchers in that rally. Trevor Ford, Landon Pruitt, Joel Ray and Matt Strott all had hits, and Pruitt’s was a ground-rule double that scored Ford.

“We walk seven, make an error on eight and walk nine,” White Plains coach Chad Hudson said. “Against Piedmont, you can’t do that. They’re too good, and that’s where the first game got away from us.”

White Plains (16-16) was looking to make the third round of the playoffs for third consecutive year. The Wildcats reached the second round this year despite losing seven key contributors from its 2011 team.

“I’m very, very proud of our players,” Hudson said. “They have shown a lot of heart and determination. They’ve let us coach them hard, and I’m proud to coach them.”

Piedmont moves on to play host to Winfield (27-19), which swept Carbon Hill 3-0 and 9-5 on Friday. A series victory puts Piedmont in the state semifinals.

In other words, it’s Cade Bradley time.

“There ain’t a better ball player in this state than Cade Bradley,” Blanchard said. “He’s a special kid.”

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or jmedley@annistonstar.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.

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