STARKVILLE – Not many Mississippi State fans were familiar with Lucas Laster before his start in the Governor’s Cup in mid April.
After all, the junior college transfer had pitched in just four games prior. But Laster did enough in his first career start for the Bulldogs to earn the confidence of both the coaching staff and fans alike.
Laster went 5 1/3 innings against Ole Miss allowing one earned run on two hits with a walk and a pair of strikeouts.
“Everybody wants to throw immediately but looking back I really think it was good for me,” Laster said. “It allowed me to make those changes and get comfortable with those changes in order to be able to pitch.”
The 5-foot-11, 178-pound southpaw pitched in nine games total during his junior campaign including four starts. Laster was 0-1 with a 2.60 earned run average, 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 34.2 innings of work.
Laster’s final two starts came in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Lafayette Regional. He hurled a career-best game against UGA logging 8 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts.
“I try to prepare myself mentally for whatever situation they need me,” Laster said. “Whatever role they need me for that day, that’s what I try to prepare for.”
Laster joined Columbia State (Tenn.) Community College teammate Derrick Armstrong in Starkville. The Lewsiberg, Tenn., native went 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 54 innings as a sophomore.
Laster was ranked as a Top 200 JUCO prospect nationally by Perfect Game and received offers from Middle Tennessee and Lipscomb. But the situation at MSU was exactly what he was looking for in a program.
“I’ve always wanted to play SEC ball,” Laster said. “But I wanted to come to a place that would prepare me to grow. I came here and listened to what the coaches had to say about me and felt like this was the place. I didn’t wait on anywhere else before I committed.
“I’ve really grown. (Pitching) coach (Butch) Thompson has done a great job with me. I believe if I wasn’t here I wouldn’t be the way I am today.”
Laster admittedly struggled during the fall practice and while it took him a little longer to develop, he concluded the year as one of Diamond Dogs most reliable options on the mound.
“He really didn’t have a good fall,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “But Butch Thompson stayed with him and he ended up being pretty dad gum good. Lucas has been phenomenal. The quality of his pitches has been really good, not just the velocity but the spin and the rotation of his breaking ball. I’m just really proud of the progress he’s made.”
Laster has spent his summer pitching in the prestigious Cape Cod League for the Bourne (Mass.) Braves. In 11 relief appearances, Laster sports a 3.05 ERA and one save. He has fanned 16 batters and issued four walks in 17.2 frames.