At times it seems like Oak Hill High School pitcher Bradley Lokant has been pitching for 20 years or more.
That is because Lokant has been a standout baseball player from the first time he stepped on the mound as a freshman.
Now as a senior, the smooth throwing lefty has been the foundation in Oak Hill’s postseason run that so far includes a Class AAA Region 3 Section 2 title.
“Bradley has been a guy that when we put him on the mound, you know what you are going to get. He has been so consistent,” Oak Hill head coach Matt Boyd said. “We have gotten complete games out of him all year. I kinda put the pressure on him early in the year telling him that was what we had to have out of him”
“When we put him on the mound, we had to have seven innings out of him and he did that. He is a quiet kid and more of a lead by example type guy, but he never gets rattled. For a pitcher, that is a great trait to have.
Dan Poland, who coached Lokant during his freshman and sophomore season, relayed that feeling.
“Bradley is the type of kid that makes people want to coach,” Poland said. One of the best human beings I have ever had the pleasure of being around. I am lucky to have coached him. A true competitor and a great player ever since he was a freshman.”
Lokant has basically been a baseball kid his entire life, playing hardball exclusively during his high school career.
Like most baseball players, Lokant started playing in his early years, but it was quickly evident that he was more than just an average talent.
“The earliest I can remember is playing Minor League down at the Oak Hill fields. I moved up to Little League when I was nine,” Lokant said. “I think what really helped me to grow was being able to play against the older kids. We went to states with the 9-10 year old Oak Hill All-star team. That was a fun experience going up to Bridgeport and playing.”
Oftentimes the position you love as you get older, is not the first position you play as a baseball player. The same can be said for the Oak Hill ace.
“I was a decent pitcher in Little League, but I didn’t get into pitching much until my later middle school years,” Lokant explained. “That is when I really started to like pitching and it’s my favorite now. I like being in control over the outcome of the game and I like the pressure. I like reacting to the pressure.”
Possessing a live fastball that runs away from right hand batters and back into lefties, Lokant talked about the changes over his high school baseball career.
“Definitely more velocity. That helps a little bit,” Lokant said, smiling. “I have also worked on location. That is probably where I struggled the most when I was younger. I think that is the biggest part of getting people out is being able to throw it where you want to. I have never thrown a four-seam fastball. I have always thrown a two-seam for as long as I can remember and I just never fixed it. It has worked out so far though.”
Standing two wins away from a trip to the state tournament is an ironic twist for Oak Hill after a golden opportunity for the program to go deep into the postseason was halted last year due to the Covid virus.
“It feels great to have this opportunity. I think we really missed out last year and I think a lot of people were disappointed in the community,” Lokant explained. “We would go places and people were telling us we were going to be really good last year. I think this year has kinda made up for it.”
After handcuffing Woodrow Wilson over an 11-1 win in the opening game of sectional play, Lokant was handed the ball in the decisive sectional championship game at Greenbrier East.
Lokant was ready and relished the opportunity.
“I don’t think anyone looking on the outside thought we could win. We were playing with no pressure. If we lost, we lost. But, we went out there and played our best baseball of the year,” Lokant said. “I didn’t want to disappoint everyone. That could have been my last game ever pitching. You use that to make you pitch better.”
Lokant pitched his second gem of the sectional tournament in a 3-2 Oak Hill win, sending the Red Devils to the regional round..
“Baseball is filled with a lot of pressure and anxiety. Dealing with that is what baseball has taught me,” Lokant said. “Sometimes the game is just out of your hands. It helps you realize that not everything is your fault. You just have to do your best and see what happens.”
Monday night, Lokant will be called upon again in the opening game of regional play against St. Albans.
The Red Dragons have won two of the last three AAA baseball titles and will bring a formidable lineup to the clash.
“I have to keep the ball where my fielders can do the work. They are a good team and they are going to hit the ball,” Lokant said. “I have to make them hit grounders and fly balls so my fielders can make plays. I’m not going to be able to strike out all of them.”
Like his Oak Hill teammates, the soft spoken senior hopes his team makes a run to the state tournament. Either way, when the season ends, so will Lokant’s baseball career and he has no regrets.
“I think I am ready to hang it up after this year. I’m going to West Virginia University to major in biochemistry and I hope to get into medical school one day,” Lokant said. “It has been a really fun year. We have had our ups and downs, but to finish off strong like this is great. I have really enjoyed playing with the team this year.”