Cheyenne Post 6 right-hander Braden Pearson verbally commits to Texas

Nov. 29—CHEYENNE — Braden Pearson pitched nearly 55 innings for Cheyenne American Legion Post 6 this summer.

However, it was a few innings the junior right-hander pitched this fall that opened doors with power conference college baseball programs and led to him verbally committing to the University of Texas earlier this month.

Pearson didn't have much college interest after helping Post 6 reach the semifinals of the American Legion World Series in August. Hoping to continue his development, the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder decided to give up football at Cheyenne East to play fall baseball with WYCO Select, which is made up of players from southeastern Wyoming and northern Colorado.

"I knew we were going to a big tournament in Lake Point, Georgia, which had me pretty excited because I knew it could help me get my name out there a little bit more," Pearson said. "I was starting to get desperate because I was going into my junior year with no offers, and guys from my class were already committing."

The Prep Baseball Report showcase in Lake Point wasn't the caliber of tournament WYCO had hoped for, but was attended by Wow Factor National coach Justin Goetz, who approached Pearson after seeing him pitch four innings against the East Cobb (Georgia) Patriots. Goetz offered Pearson a spot on Wow Factor's team that was headed to a Perfect Game showcase in Jupiter, Florida. Wow Factor's roster for Jupiter was filled with players committed to high major NCAA Division I schools, including two who are headed to reigning national champion LSU.

Pearson only pitched two-thirds of an inning in Jupiter, walking three and giving up an earned run, but the tools coaches saw Oct. 5 — a 91 mph fastball backed by a knuckle-curveball in the low-80s — made him highly sought after. Texas, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Oregon, Ohio State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Xavier and Army all reached out to Pearson.

Texas convinced Pearson to make a trip to Austin for a visit. He was able to pitch more for the Longhorns coaches and earned a scholarship offer he jumped at.

"The pitching development is really good there," Pearson said. "If you want to be a pitcher, that's the place to go because the field is deep and the turf is really slow, so you don't give up a lot of extra-base hits. The wind also blows in a lot, which makes it hard to hit a ball out.

"They also have a program strictly for pitching, with motion sensors around the field that can scan your body to show you your weaknesses. I'd never seen anything like it."

This past summer was Pearson's first on Post 6's varsity roster. He tossed 54 2/3 innings, posting a 6-1 record to go with three saves. Pearson's 69 strikeouts tied for fourth-most on Cheyenne's roster, while his 2.31 earned-run average was fifth-best. He also logged a .226 batting average against.

"He really learned how to pitch this summer, grew a little bit more, and his (velocity) is up a little bit more," Sixers manager Ty Lain said. "He learned how to work both sides of the plate, understands how to sequence a hitter, the importance of winning 'swing' pitches, getting a first-pitch strike.

"You could see at the (Northwest) regional, every time you get behind in a count or walk a guy that it's a difference-maker in an inning. Having the pressure of throwing enough strikes consistently made him better and better, and he made another big jump this fall."

Pearson tossed 12 2/3 innings for WYCO, fanning 18 batters with a 5.53 ERA.

The knuckle-curve is a new pitch Pearson started working on in early June. He started feeling comfortable throwing it in games by July, and it became a go-to pitch this fall.

"I don't know if it's because I have smaller hands, but I can't really throw a curveball without knuckling it anyway," Pearson said. "Even on my slider, I have to have my pointer finger knuckled on the baseball. So I could never really throw a regular curve.

"Coach Lain threw a knuckle-curve in high school and suggested I try it. It was really comfortable, and I could throw it well."

Texas will join the Southeastern Conference next fall. That league has produced five of the past six NCAA champions and four of its past six runners-up, and is widely considered the premier college baseball conference. Playing that caliber of competition also appealed to Pearson.

"I want to play the highest level of college baseball I can, and it doesn't get any better than the SEC," he said. "That's the best conference you can play in for baseball. I'm going to see the best competition there. I want to push myself as hard as I can and see where this can take me."

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Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on X at @jjohnke.