Fox steady arm, big bats lead Hillsborough Cardinal in Fall League

By DN WRITING STAFF | September 16, 2023

Brayden Fox rounds third en route to fueling Hillsborough’s three-run third inning.

By Rich Bevensee

Brayden Fox wants to make an impression so badly next spring when Hillsborough High varsity baseball tryouts begin, you could say he’s in a rush.

In a hurry to throw. In a bigger hurry to prove himself. 

But Fox learned to temper those urges well enough this summer to become the No. 1 starter for the Hillsborough Cardinal in the Diamond Nation High School Fall League.

On Thursday evening, Fox pitched a two-hitter while he was supported by an 18-hit barrage in Hillsborough’s 19-1, four-inning victory over NJ Jays 16U American at Diamond Nation in Flemington. 

“He controls the game and he throws well. He just needs to slow himself down,” said Hillsborough Cardinal coach Eric Eden, Hillsborough High’s varsity coach for eight seasons (2013-20). “A lot of times he’ll get to the top of his leg kick and his head is already going forward. He’s much better when he gathers himself and goes forward and takes his time.

“I’d say he had a little adrenaline going, too, with the fall opener. I told him he was on a 50-pitch count and he said, ‘I can go all game.’ I said it’s the fall, take it easy.”

Fox yielded a run on two hits in the first inning and allowed only one more baserunner after that by employing a two- and four-seam fastball, curveball and slider. He hit one batter but didn’t give up a walk and struck out six. 

“I felt like I was rushing on some pitches,” said Fox, a 5-9, 150-pound righty.  “Usually I rush after a ball because I want to throw a strike. It’s more about keeping my weight on my back foot when I’m delivering. I don’t want to fly open on my release because when I do that I usually spike the fastball. That didn’t happen too much today. I feel like I was really in the zone.”

“For Brayden it’s all about locating his fastball and challenging hitters,” said Eden, who had a terrific career at Hillsborough High. “He throws well especially when he’s working down in the zone. When he stays within himself he does a good job.”

Fox said it’s likely that due to returning veterans next spring, he’ll make the varsity squad as a corner outfielder and spot reliever. He said his summer pitching was productive, but his velocity could use an uptick if he wants to make an impression as a high school starter.

Garrett Herndon tripled and drove in four runs to lead the Cardinal.

The Cardinal, a collection of current and future Hillsborough varsity players, improved to 2-0 in the Fall League later Thursday after an 11-1 defeat of the Flemington Baseball Association Jays 18U. Only Hillsborough, Whitehouse Post 284 and Hustle Baseball Academy are 2-0 through the first week of fall league action.

The Cardinal offensive attack was headed by first baseman Alex Orr, a Hillsborough senior who went 4-for-4 with a double, two RBI and three runs scored.

Every Cardinal batter had at least one base hit, 10 scored at least once and nine drove in a run. Hillsborough sent 15 batters to the plate in the first inning and 12 batters in the fourth.

“I’m always antsy when I’m hitting. It’s my favorite part of the game,” Orr said. “I love to go up there and swing, and when everyone is hitting like that, it makes it that much better.”

Last spring, the 6-1, 195-pound Orr went 8-for-31 with eight RBI for the Raiders, and he batted just under .300 for the Zoned RedHawks this summer. He said he’s looking to improve on pitch selection and reach a .400 batting average for next spring.

“Right now I swing at everything. I gotta tighten that up a little bit,” Orr said.

Garrett Herndon, a Hillsborough junior, tripled and drove in four runs for the Cardinal. Logan Ragunath went 3-for-4 with an RBI double. Leadoff hitter Jason Williams and J.J. Lotierzo each had two hits and two RBI. Krish Patel singled, doubled, walked and drove in a run. And Anthony Heinold had an RBI double.

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