Bradley, Brettell lead strong bullpen
Before the Central Michigan baseball team takes the field, junior right-handed pitcher Colton Bradley inspires his teammates with a backflip to close the team meeting.
The confidence that Bradley has before each game is the same confidence and aggressive behavior you seen from him on the mound.
The Augusta, Michigan, native has a 4-0 record, with seven saves and has a total of 27 strikeouts. Bradley (33.1) is the only pitcher on CMU's roster that has not started a game and has pitched more than 30 innings.
CMU's closer earned three saves in four games from April 5 against Oakland to April 9 against Ohio. Bradley struck out four batters and didn't give up a walk during that stretch — earning Mid-American Conference West Division Pitcher of the Week.
"He's gotten better and better in tough situations," said head coach Steve Jaksa. "He is really handling it. He will only learn from (tough situations), he's a smart kid and he will get better at handling excitement and adrenaline."
Bradley uses that adrenaline every time he comes out of the bullpen.
"I love the role," Bradley said. "I love being in the big situation and being out there to finish out games. I just do whatever I can to help this team win."
The right-hander said that he doesn't think about the pressure on his shoulders when entering a game.
"I just try to relax and say a prayer before I take the mound," Bradley said. "I've got my moms initials on my glove so I give her a kiss, touch my heart and pray for the best."
In April of 2016, the Bradley family suffered a tragedy when Colton's mother, Debbie, passed away in an accident. Now, Colton plays in honor of his mother. With her initials on his glove, Bradley leads a bullpen that is pivotal in CMU's success.
"Our bullpen is continually going to be extremely important to the success of this team," Bradley said. "Our pitching staff has been solid throughout the year and the starting pitching has been phenomenal. As long as our bullpen keeps shutting games down and our starters keep getting the ball to the back of the bullpen, we will be in good shape."
Another important piece to CMU's bullpen is Michael Brettell, who began the season as a starting pitcher and now has embraced an additional role as a reliever.
Brettell has a 5-2 record this season. In more than 40 innings pitched, Brettell has struck out 32 batters and earned one save. The Foothill, Ontario native has posted a 5.18 earned run average.
"Any way that I can help the team win is fine with me," Brettell said. "Whether it's starting or coming out of the bullpen, I have no preference. I like that they trust me in any situation to give the team a chance to win."
Brettell enjoys that he is able to start in midweek games because it gives him an opportunity to pitch on the weekends too.
Even with a unique role, Brettell leads all CMU pitchers in wins this season. He has allowed the least amount of hits (36) and runs (24) and is second to Tyler Hankins with a .714 winning percentage.
Brettell is followed by a number of other relievers in CMU's crowded bullpen, including Jake Raether, Zach Kohn and Jordan Grosjean.
Jeff Opalewski, associate head coach and recruiting coordinator, said everyone in the bullpen plays a critical role in the pitching rotation.
"In order to have as good a team as we can, we need to have the best pitching staff that we can have," Opalewski said. "To me the role isn't that important in terms of who is a starter versus a reliever versus a closer. Everybody has a job to do and if everyone does their job, regardless of what that may be, then that gives us the best opportunity (to win).
"The more guys that are reliable in terms of we know what we are going to get from them, the better off we are going to be. Everybody is really important."