Summer smash: For Auburn's Cade Belyeu, the hits keep coming

by Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. –  On Memorial Day, Auburn freshman Cade Belyeu hopped in his truck and drove 11 hours to Virginia where a summer playing in the Valley Baseball League awaited.

"I want to get stronger," said Belyeu, who looks to regain the weight he lost during the long spring season. "Confidence is the main thing. Keeping the confidence I had here at the end of the season. That's a huge boost moving into the summer."

After finishing his freshman season with a bang, the extra-base hits have kept on coming. In Belyeu's first eight games with the Charlottesville Tom Sox, where his teammates include fellow Auburn freshman Cale Stricklin, Belyeu has homered four times, doubled and tripled for an astounding 1.666 on-base plus slugging percentage.

"We'll have a blast and come back better than we were before," he said.

Like many freshmen getting their first taste of college baseball, Belyeu struggled to adjust in the fall. When doubts crept in, Belyeu and Auburn associate head coach Gabe Gross knocked them out in the batting cage.

"Working with Gabe over time, he's a huge mentor to me," Belyeu said. "He's taught me everything I know."

Those lessons included offense and defense, with Cade's outfield play trending upward.

"Learning from him really boosts my confidence and helps me be where I am today," Belyeu said. "When I figured out my swing, I figured I could fit in with the rest of the guys."

Fit in, he did. After coming off the bench for the first six weeks of the season, Belyeu took advantage of his opportunity, earning a starting outfield position and hitting .284 in 26 starts in his first season.

Belyeu's .632 slugging percentage led the team, with more than half of his hits (15 of 27) going for extra bases. He tied for third on the team with eight home runs and earned Freshman All-SEC Team recognition, acclaim that led to a congratulatory call from his mom and dad.

"A big honor, something that not many people get," Belyeu said. "That was huge for them to call me."

Belyeu's exploits received national exposure on ESPN's SportsCenter on May 8 with his home run-robbing catch in Auburn's win at Georgia Tech.

"That was awesome," Belyeu said. "I've never robbed a home run before. That was an adrenaline feeling."

Belyeu starred at Auburn High School, a few miles from Plainsman Park.

"Auburn baseball, I've always loved," he said. "Seeing Coach Thompson coach these guys. The respect I have for him is so high. Coming and watching games, I was always an Auburn baseball fan."

20240517_BSB_vs_Alabama_DG_0829Laying out: Cade Belyeu began playing outfield as a 12-year-old, though not without setbacks

An outfielder since age 12, Belyeu plays aggressively and with reckless abandon that resulted in him dislocating both shoulders in high school, his right one twice.

"I don't mind diving and laying out for a ball to help the team," he said.

Belyeu's bat earned the admiration of his older teammates. Six of Cade's eight home runs came in SEC play, including five in a six-game span down the stretch. He homered in four straight games to help Auburn win its final two series against Missouri and Alabama, becoming the first Auburn player since 2008 to hit home runs in four consecutive SEC games.

Belyeu credits Gross for teaching him that, in the batter's box, "smooth is fast."

"You just try to swing smooth," he said. "Go up there thinking swing smoothly and see the ball first. Put a good swing on it instead of trying to hit a home run. That's always the mentality and usually when you have that, you're going to hit the ball hard somewhere."

An avid weightlifter in high school, Belyeu added additional fluidity working with Auburn baseball director of sports performance Chris Joyner.

"C.J. has helped me a ton with my movement, and weight training," Belyeu said. "He's professional and he's helped me improve to where I am today."

After reaching base in 19 straight games and 24 of his last 25 while helping the Tigers win their final two SEC series against Missouri and Alabama, Belyeu hopes to build on that momentum and help Auburn return to postseason play in 2025.

"No one wants to go through that," he said of missing the NCAA Tournament. "It's definitely going to fuel next year and be in the back of our minds."

Belyeu observed how team leaders Tanner Bauman and Cooper McMurray guided the Tigers through a challenging season, taking notes along the way as Cade's turn to provide leadership draws near.

"Those guys really showed what it's like to be an Auburn baseball player," Belyeu said. "The leadership and mentorship they gave me and the whole team was awesome. I strive to be like those guys."

20240428_BSB_vs_LSU_DG_0003Freshman phenom: Cade Belyeu led Auburn with a .632 slugging percentage in 2024

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer