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SoWal’s Watson signs with Tallahassee

Sam Grubenhoff
sgrubenhoff@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Cade Watson had been sitting on his scholarship offer since November.

Had the South Walton senior pitcher known the COVID-19 pandemic would infiltrate Florida the following March, decimating the spring sports season, he would have signed on the dotted line faster than his split-finger fastball reaches the catcher’s mitt.

Still, signing with Tallahassee Community College on May 18 in the South Walton Auditorium with a few friends, teammates and family in attendance was a welcome occasion.

“It was kinda relieving,” Watson said. “I wish it could have happened a little sooner than this whole virus thing, but everybody that I wanted to be there, my family and friends, were there, so it was a good day.”

Tallahassee first reached out to Watson this past summer. Amid countless travel ball games, Watson found himself at a camp at Chipola College in Marianna. After an impressive bullpen and a little boost from Twitter, Eagles pitching coach Corey Pye invited Watson to campus in October to throw another bullpen.

“The first bullpen I threw for him wasn’t too great,” Watson said.

Disappointed, Watson persisted down the recruiting trail, finding himself in the Big Easy later that month.

“I went to the University of New Orleans showcase where I threw a bullpen there against live batters, and I think I struck out all six batters that I faced,” Watson said. “That coach at New Orleans talked to the TCC coach, and they invited me to throw another bullpen, a second bullpen and they offered me after that.”

The chance to play in the Panhandle Conference, which has turned out three NJCAA national champions in the past six years, helped seal the deal.

“I like the junior college route,” Watson said. “I was considering New Orleans if they were to offer me, but Tallahassee is also a lot closer to where I live, and they actually offered one of my teammates that’s on my travel ball team, Aidan Keenan … I just wanted a team where I could possibly get a lot of innings playing, and I just thought that was the right school to go for.”

In Watson, the Eagles are getting the ultimate utility player. Through just seven games this season, the Seahawk senior was dominating on the mound and in the box.

His .529 batting average led South Walton, as did his .629 OBP and .823 slugging percentage.

And with a team-high 19 2/3 innings pitched, he posted a 1.07 ERA with 37 strikeouts against nine walks, baffling hitters with a two-seam fastball, looping curveball and a developing slider.

Although he is open to both pitching and playing the outfield, he said he chose Tallahassee because it offered him the best opportunity to get on the mound.

“I’m looking forward to playing baseball,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been working for my whole life and been grinding for the past four years specifically.

“I just really worked trying to play college ball because I knew it was something that I wanted to do and something I loved doing, so I’m just looking forward to meeting new friends, new people, just working hard and playing baseball.”