When opportunity disappeared in an unimaginable pandemic that’s lasted for the majority of 2020, West Monroe left-handed pitcher Lane Little found another way to make his mark.
After the spring baseball season was unceremoniously canceled earlier this year, Little and his teammates were left with unanswerable questions about a season that started with a 9-4 record against stout competition. How good could they have been? Were they on the fast track to play in state championship games in Sulphur?
From a team aspect, that’s devastating, but what about the individual? What about the players wishing to play baseball at the next level? How would the upperclassmen go out and attain those opportunities amid a pandemic? Surprisingly, the answer involved technology.
Little joined his summer travel team, the Louisiana Knights 17 Gray team, following the high school baseball season’s cancellation. And though the Knights initially were unable to play against other competition, the Knights teams played against one another in Biloxi. The best part, aside from getting to play the game you love again with buddies in a minor league park? The contests were streamed live over the internet, meaning anyone could log on and watch.
“Coach (Mike Federico) was actually texting me back and forth and was watching me pitch,” Little said. “He got to watch me just about every weekend.”
Federico must’ve liked what he saw. ULM’s head baseball coach sent Little an offer to play for ULM in 2021, and Little gladly accepted.
“It was all a crazy process because most colleges had to base their recruiting this summer on live streams,” Little said. “(Federico) has been really consistent with me. He stayed on me when I did good in the summer and even when I didn’t have my best stuff. I felt like we had a good relationship going, and the flip side to that is the program is awesome. What he’s got going over there. They were just putting together a great season last year.”
Little attended the Warhawks games against Ole Miss last season, and with the crowd at full capacity, Little said that showed him that Federico was committed to bringing big things to Monroe.
Little’s approach and control is what’s made him an attractive piece for Federico to add to a program that was 12-5 before the pandemic abruptly ended the season.
Should Little ultimately sign with ULM, he'll bring three pitches that he loves equally. Little will constantly work his two-seam fastball with his changeup, and some days he’ll really work his 12-6 curveball when everything is clicking.
“I like to sink that changeup away to righties,” Little said. “That’s actually more of my contact pitch. I really live off of that to get deep into games.”
Over the summer, Little struck out 40 batters in 34 innings. He’s only walked five batters while boasting a 1.8 ERA.
It’s a good thing Little is familiar with the ol’ curveball. After all, he got thrown one before his junior football season last fall.
While Little has flourished as a pitcher for West Monroe from a young age, he’s also stepped into the spotlight as the team’s starting quarterback as a junior. Heck, he had to after starting quarterback Garrett Kahmann suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the jamboree. Funny enough Kahmann committed to ULM before ultimately signing with the Warhawks to continue his football career.
Ready or not, it was Little’s time to lead the team.
“Going into last year (as a junior), I was just sitting here thinking I’m going to start my senior year, so at that point in the summer, I was really focused on baseball,” Little said. “I didn’t expect to be thrown into that situation. But it was a really good experience for me. I got a year under my belt. And I got a lot of experience. The nerves are completely out of my way now. It feels good going into this year as the starter with experience. This is more of my guys. This is my team. We have a bunch of confidence.”
Little’s unlikely scenarios in what’s been a wild year in his athletic career have helped shaped the West Monroe two-sport star into the player he is today.
It’s also provided him an opportunity he doesn’t take for granted, and that’s to stay at home and continue to play a sport he’s excelled in from a very young age.