When it came time to find a new home to play baseball, the program which gave Cade Hungate the best opportunity was Liberty University.
The former Abingdon High School star confirmed on Friday night he was transferring to the school in Lynchburg, Virginia, after spending his previous two seasons at Florida State University.
Virginia Commonwealth and Radford were also in the mix for Hungate’s services, but the Flames of the Atlantic Sun Conference won out.
“I chose Liberty because they were the best fit for me,” Hungate said. “My parents [Eric and Vicki] and I both had things that needed to be checked off before making a decision and Liberty checked off all the boxes that we had laid out as a family. I also really like the coaching staff a lot.”
Scott Jackson just completed his fourth season as head coach and prior to that was a longtime assistant at the University of North Carolina.
“I have had a past with Coach Jackson when he was at UNC, so I knew how great of a coach he is,” Hungate said. “I’m really excited to be able to play for him and be a part of the Liberty baseball family.”
A 6-foot-2, 206-pound right-hander, Hungate had a 7.88 ERA in eight relief outings covering eight innings pitched as a freshman in 2019 at FSU. Hungate redshirted during the truncated 2020 season.
He was a two-way player at AHS, hitting .488 with 37 RBIs, while going 10-0 with a 1.22 ERA on the mound as a senior in 2018.
He figures to swing the stick and see time on the mound at Liberty.
“My plan is to be a guy who can do both,” Hungate said. “Coach Jackson sees me as a corner guy in the field and a back-end guy out of the bullpen, which is the two things that I really want to do.”
Ex-University of Virginia star Tyler Cannon is an assistant coach for the Flames. His father, Larry, previously served as the head baseball coach at John Battle and athletic director at Patrick Henry.
Left-handed pitcher Brogan Beckner from Dobyns-Bennett High School is on the Liberty roster, as well as second baseman Will Wagner. Will Wagner is the son of former Tazewell High School star Billy Wagner, a Southwest Virginia legend who pitched 16 seasons in the major leagues.
“I don’t know Brogan or Will personally, but I have played against both of them and know that both guys are very talented,” Hungate said. “I am really excited to be playing with both of them and getting to develop a personal relationship with those guys.”
Liberty regularly plays in-state rival Radford and one of the top sluggers for the Highlanders is Will Harless, Hungate’s friend and former high school teammate.
Thomas Francisco (East Carolina) also represents AHS on the collegiate level, while Cade Hungate’s younger brother, Chase, is a rising senior at Abingdon who has already committed to VCU.
“It’s gonna be really cool getting to play against one of my best friends,” Harless said. “I’m glad he’s getting this opportunity and I know he will make the most of it. It’s cool to see all of us at this level playing and being successful. All the hard work we have put in over the years is paying off. I know Cade is gonna do big things at Liberty and I’m looking forward to competing against him.”
Hungate hopes to make his mark at Liberty, which went 40-19 in 2019.
“I think the program is headed in a great direction,” Hungate said. “I think what Coach Jackson and his staff have brought to Liberty is a winning mindset and I can’t be more thankful for the opportunity that they have given me to be a part of a team which I think is going to be very special.”