Gragilla embraced role as Hough’s No. 1 pitcher

by Cliff Mehrtens

CORNELIUS – Brandon Gragilla’s biggest challenge came long before the Hough High baseball season began.

Coach Jimmy Cochran met with Gragilla in the offseason, informing him that fellow pitcher Johnny Piedmonte would be out because of arm surgery. The Huskies needed a new No. 1 pitcher. Gragilla was it.

“We’re looking for you to go out there and pitch against the best teams,” Gragllia said, recalling the talk with coach Cochran. “I took that as a challenge. I felt good that he was saying that. I wanted to go out there and show what I could do against those teams.”

Gragilla showed that he was, indeed, a No. 1 pitcher. He went 11-2 with a 1.04 earned run average and had 69 strikeouts and only 18 walks. Gragilla, a junior, helped the Huskies reach the N.C. 4A championship series. He is the Mountain Island Monitor 2012 Baseball Player of the Year.

“Our team played great behind me when I was pitching,” Gragilla said. “I was able to locate all my pitches and hit my spots. My off-speed pitches are what really helped me this season, keeping the hitters off-balance.”

Gragilla was named the I-MECK 4A conference pitcher of the year, and the Huskies won the conference tournament. Perhaps Gragilla’s best performance came in a 3-2 road victory against perennial power South Caldwell in the third round of the playoffs, when he scattered six hits. He also was the hard-luck loser in the first game of the state title series against Apex Middle Creek, allowing only five hits in seven innings of a 2-0 loss.

“Brandon is an outstanding young man,” Cochran said. “He is a very deserving recipient of any award and recognition he receives.”

Gragilla spent most of his sophomore season pitching out of the bullpen for first-year Hough, which finished 10-14. He and his teammates took off in the second year and finished 23-12. The Huskies had a nine-game winning streak, including six in the playoffs, to reach the state final. Five of the playoff victories were by one run.

“I think here at Hough we’ve established that we’re going to work harder than the other teams and be more prepared,” Gragilla said. “Our coaches do a good job of putting that in our heads. When we get out on the field, we just go and play. All that preparation from the practices takes care of itself.”

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