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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stanley’s the man in LHS playoff push

COLUMN: NEW ALBANY —There are plenty of words to describe Lafayette right-hander Luke Stanley.

Last week, Amory coach Chad Williams and Lafayette coach Greg Lewis both called the senior ace a “bulldog.”

Monday, LHS pitching coach Ryan Taylor may have summed up Stanley the best.

“He’s a winner. He’s a gamer and he just has the most heart of any kid,” Taylor said. “He says ‘I can beat anybody’ and you’re going to have to prove him wrong.”

Since the MHSAA Class 4A playoffs began on April 20, Stanley is 4-0 with a save in five appearances on the mound.

In those 27 innings against Yazoo County, Amory and New Albany, Stanley has allowed three — THREE! — earned runs while striking out 30.

“Anytime he’s on the mound these kids know they have a chance to win the game because he’s going to do what he’s got to do,” Taylor said.

When New Albany forced a third game in the best-of-three series by winning Saturday, Lewis said he didn’t hesitate in telling Stanley he was going to get the decisive start Monday at New Albany despite the senior having just pitched a complete game Friday.

“I already knew. With him having the day off, unless he came and told me something was hurting, he was going to start,” Lewis said. “We threw him real light at the first of the year to get him to this point and now it’s time to go and see what you got.”

Although Stanley just limited a New Albany team that can flat out rake to a measly three earned runs in 14 innings, the right-hander only flashed a smile twice while on the mound.

Allow a run to score — maybe Stanley will glare at the mitt of catcher Jake McPhail extra-hard after getting set on the mound.

Roll a double play — nothing.

Strike out the side — still nothing.

The only time Stanley allows himself to snap out of character is when the final out is recorded.

It’s that no nonsense demeanor that Stanley, a likable young man off the field, said is just part of his on-the-field persona.

“I just try to get into a zone I guess and don’t try to get out of it or let anybody mess with me,” he said. “I guess not smiling is a part of it.”

Another part of Stanley’s game that his coaches and teammates appreciate is the fact that when he gets into a jam, he’ll likely get himself out of it.

Like Monday, when Stanley filled the bases with one out in the first inning only to turn around and strike out New Albany’s six- and seven-hole hitters to get out of the jam.

“You’re going to have to beat him because he ain’t going to beat himself,” Taylor said. “It ain’t going to happen.”

As is the case with most leaders, Stanley will be the first to say the wins weren’t all about him and that the victories wouldn’t be made possible without the excellence from the players behind him.

Like in the second and third innings when double plays erased Bulldog baserunners.

“Those were big. (Tyler) Mize was doing great standing in there (at second base with runners sliding into him) and getting them out at first,” Stanley said. “I can’t say enough about the defense.”

As it turns out, folks can’t say enough about Stanley, either. (May 8, 2012, Page 6)

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