HUGHESVILLE - Travis Bradley woke up Monday expecting to be a spectator when Jersey Shore played at Hughesville. Hours later, the freshman was warming up, anointed as the Jersey Shore's answer against a streaking offense.
The freshman pitcher was surprised, but realized he had an outstanding opportunity. He would not let it slip away either.
Bradley was sensational, throwing five scoreless innings and combining with Dylan Hamm on a 5-hit shutout as Jersey Shore blanked Hughesville, 7-0 at Bodine Park. Colton Potter went 3-for-3 with a three-run double while Boone Costa reached base four times and scored three runs as the Bulldogs (8-1) won their fifth straight game.
Jersey Shore's Travis Bradley throws Monday at Hughesville.
"I thought he (coach Matt O'Brien) would go with one of the upperclassmen," Bradley said. "When he gave me the ball I thought I would show him what I got."
He has a lot.
Bradley displayed outstanding composure, in addition to a nice range of pitches that he consistently threw for strikes. The right-hander looked like a young Tellef Notevarp, letting his strong defense make plays behind him while keeping Hughesville (4-5) off balance. He walked just one, struck out two in the first inning and threw just 58 pitches in five innings.
Bradley did all this against a Hughesville team that had scored 36 runs in three straight wins last week. Against Bradley, the Spartans only managed three hits, one that left the infield. Bradley improved to 2-0 and all the work he has put in is paying huge dividends.
"Travis is a competitor. He's probably one of our hardest workers. He's in the gym every day at 6 a.m.," O'Brien said. "He's working his butt off. He wants the ball in his hands at all times and that's something that is tough to teach. The future could be bright."
The present is looking pretty good too. Bradley had lots of help from his friends who turned two double plays and delivered 12 hits. Kaiden Brungard's first-inning RBI single put Jersey Shore ahead to stay and the Bulldogs scored their final six runs with clutch hitting, producing two-out hits each time.
Eight players delivered at least one hit and pinch-hitter Brody Smith's two-out, bases-empty sixth-inning single ignited a three-run rally that broke open the game.
"You don't want to go out there and think it's all you. I have the mindset that you can trust your teammates and just throw the baseball," Bradley said. "We just hit the ball well up and down the lineup and played good defense. It's a good way to start the week."
Christian Rishel (2-for-3) and Zach Miller hit consecutive 2-out RBI singles in the third inning, putting Jersey Shore up 3-0. Miller also ended a fourth-inning Hughesville threat with a beautiful catch and rocket throw to first for a double play. Costa (2-for-3, 2 walks, 3 runs) had put the Bulldogs up 4-0 in the top of that inning, belting a RBI single.
Smith was one of two Jersey Shore reserves to deliver a hit and his sixth-inning single paved the way for Potter slamming a three-run double to deep center field. Potter reached base all four times he batted and Jersey Shore scored six runs in those innings.
"It's not just the hitting that I like with Colton, it's the intangibles of running the bases hard, plays in the field and stopping the bleeding," O'Brien said. "He's kind of our leader but we'll take the hits, too. He's a lot of fun to watch and a pleasure to coach too."
Hughesville mounted its only significant threat in the third inning when Brady Kimble (2-for-2) dropped a perfect bunt single and Sadiq Burkholder followed with a double into the right-field gap. Kimble, though, was caught in a rundown between third and home and Brungard made a nice play at third a batter later to end the rally and inning.
The Spartans had been playing their best baseball of the season but Bradley and Hamm threw only 81 pitches and had them off-balance all day. With Wednesday's game against archrival Muncy looming, Hughesville coach Casey Waller is hoping the team's demeanor, more than anything, changes.
"Hopefully the guys will come out with more hunger and fight in them," Waller said. "That's the thing I'm most frustrated with. Guys have to get after it on a consistent basis rather than just once in a while. We have to be consistent if we expect to be a top contender in the playoffs, otherwise we're going to be done."
Hamm helped his cause in the sixth inning, fielding a hard-hit grounder and throwing to Potter at second who then completed the double play. Hamm has been outstanding in relief all season and retired Hughesville on seven pitches in the sixth inning.
The offense has been strong too and has produced 54 hits during Jersey Shore's five-game winning streak. Freshman or senior, starter or reserve it does not matter. All these Bulldogs can play.
"Everyone is doing their job," Bradley said. "The last week or so we started getting fired up and pulling for each other and playing good games."
Jersey Shore102 103 0-7 12 0
Hughesville000 000 0-0 5 0
Travis Bradley, Dylan Hamm (6) and Eric Huling. Sadiq Burkholder, Tyler Mitcheltree (4), Jordan Bower (6), Jason Stroup (6) and Brett Reitz. W-Bradley, (2-0). L-Burkholder, (0-2).
Top Jersey Shore hitters: Boone Costa 2-3, 3 R, RBI; Colton Potter 3-3, 2B, 3 RBIs; Christian Rishel 2-3, RBI; Zach Miller 1-3, RBI; Brody Smith 1-1, R; Alec Ream 1-1. Top Hughesville hitters: Burkholder 1-3, 2B; Brady Kimble 2-2.
Records: Jersey Shore 8-1. Hughesville 4-5.