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Senior right-hander Luca Lawrence earned Most Valuable Player honors for the North Haven baseball team after going 9-0 with a 2.10 ERA during the recent spring season. (Photo courtesy of Luca Lawrence )
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Luca Lawrence wants the baseball in his hand when the pressure is on in big spots. Luca took the mound in that situation many times as a member of the North Haven baseball squad and consistently came up clutch for the Indians.
This spring, Luca put together an exceptional senior season that saw him post a record of 9-0 and a 2.10 ERA on his way to making the All-SCC Quinnipiac Division Team for the second straight year, in addition to winning North Haven’s Most Valuable Player Award. The right-hander’s performance helped the Indians have another in a long line of great campaigns as Head Coach Bob DeMayo’s squad won 19 games, made the semifinals of the SCC Tournament, and then advanced to the quarterfinals in the Class L State Tournament.
“The bigger the challenge, the better he pitches,” DeMayo says of Luca. “Luca always wants the ball and, when he gets out there, you know that he’s going to challenge hitters. He just has a presence on the mound. In the tough situations, you have to put the ball where you want it, and that’s the kind of kid Luca is.”
Luca debuted on the varsity mound last year, when he notched three victories to go with a 2.06 ERA, while helping North Haven reach the Class L state final. Luca’s goal coming into his junior season was to simply make the roster, but he wound up doing much more than that. Luca quickly proved that he was a pitcher who Coach DeMayo could rely upon and became a regular in the Indians’ rotation.
Luca delivered his signature performance of the season when he pitched all 11 innings of a 4-3 victory versus Xavier that yielded a share of the Quinnipiac Division title for North Haven.
“Before the game started, coach told me that he wanted me to go all seven, and I told him, ‘I got you, coach.’ From there, the adrenaline just took over,” says Luca. “When I’m pitching, I never want to get taken out. I want to stay in and help the team as much as I can. That’s why I kept going all 11 innings. I don’t like to sit and watch a game. I want to be in there.”
Luca was excited about how he contributed to the Indians as a junior and could hardly wait for his senior year to begin, so he could establish himself as North Haven’s ace. Luca already featured a fastball and a curve in his arsenal, but Coach DeMayo wanted him to develop a third pitch during the offseason, and so Luca started to work on throwing a slider. Luca says that he didn’t have great command of his slider early on this year. However, DeMayo kept calling for him to throw it, Luca got a feel for it, and, as the year wore on, the slider became a key piece of Luca’s repertoire.
“The curve is more of a looping thing, and coach told me that I needed a harder breaking pitch—the put-out pitch,” says Luca, who worked on his slider with North Haven’s Senior Legion and fall ball squads prior to his senior season. “It ended up working. I didn’t feel comfortable until I figured it out in the middle of the season, and then it became my go-to pitch over my curveball when I was struggling. By the end of the season, I felt it was the best pitch I had. It helped me a lot when I needed a strikeout or a ground ball or just keeping hitters off-balance.”
Luca experienced a reversal in his role on the Indians’ pitching staff this season. After starting several games in 2017, Luca took on the role that former teammate Brendan Clark held last year by typically being the first guy Coach DeMayo brought in from the bullpen. Luca only started two games on the hill this year, but he made 12 relief appearances, and usually pitched more innings than the starter.
As well as Luca pitched during his junior year, DeMayo says he was even better as a senior, often pulling off a high-wire act to get out of a jam with the game on the line.
“Last year was a huge learning year for Luca and he did very well, but he was definitely better this year. His control was better. He had been through it last year, and so he knew what it was all about,” says DeMayo. “When you win nine games in relief, that’s pretty special. And we weren’t blowing people away. A lot of our wins came by one or two runs late in the game, and that’s when he was on the mound. We were a different team when Luca was on the mound. We just played better.”
One of Luca’s victories came during one of the biggest games in North Haven baseball history. On May 23, Luca got the start and was the winning pitcher when Indians defeated Amity by a 7-6 score in the SCC Tournament semifinals, giving Coach DeMayo win No. 900 as North Haven’s skipper.
“It was an honor to pitch and get Coach DeMayo his 900th win,” Luca says. “He is such a legend in town and it was one of the biggest honors, if not the biggest honor of my career, to be part of one of the biggest accomplishments of his career.”
Luca picked up his eighth win of the season that day, after which he earned his ninth victory by tossing 4.2 scoreless innings of relief when North Haven claimed a 3-1 win over Woodstock Academy in the first round of the Class L State Tournament. At the end of the season, Luca was presented with one of the greatest accolades that any athlete can receive when he was named North Haven’s Most Valuable Player for the 2018 campaign.
“It’s a big honor, because it’s voted by the team, and so getting that from my teammates was a really good thing. It felt great that they saw what I did and all the hard work I put in,” Luca says. “I wasn’t expecting it going in. We had a bunch of great players on the team, and so it was an honor to get it.”
As he gets ready to try and walk on to the squad at Southern Connecticut State University, Luca says he that learned a valuable lesson that will stick with him for the rest of his life as a result of playing baseball in North Haven.
“Nothing gets handed to you,” says Luca. “You have to go out there and fight for it.”
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