By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
His talent may certainly allow for him to fit in well with the older guys on the team, enough so that he doesn’t stick out as an eighth-grader. After all, you don’t see Luke Alexander carrying around the veterans’ bags like the rookies in Major League Baseball.
“He fits in really well,” said second-year Belmont High varsity baseball coach Andy Deaton. “They can tell a good ballplayer when they see him.”
Thanks to his ability, Alexander is not your normal 14-year-old.
“He’s kind of in a unique situation,” Deaton said of the eighth-grader, who played for the 14-and-under United States national team last summer. “But he’s down-to-earth.
“He never even mentions it. He wears his USA shirt every now and then, but unless you had already heard that he played for that team, you would never know he did.”
A switch-hitter, Alexander is batting .324 with a homer, two doubles and four RBIs this season for the Cardinals.
“He had been leading off,” Deaton said earlier this week, “but to take a little pressure off him, we moved him down a little bit in the order.”
That move seemed to have paid off, as Alexander, who’s been suffering from a lower back injury, went 3 for 5 with a double and scored the winning run in extra innings against Corinth on Monday night.
In 61/3 innings on the mound, the eighth-grader – whose fastball tops off at 75 MPH and throws a changeup and a slider – is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA and nine strikeouts.
Although he’s still adjusting to the speed of the varsity game as a shortstop, says his coach, his fielding percentage is .880.
“He’s had a difficult time with the speed of the game, guys really getting down the line from home to first,” Deaton said. “He’s had maybe just one fielding error and the rest of them have been from just rushing his throws.
“He has made some pretty spectacular plays, though.”
As a lifelong Mississippi State fan, look for the Bulldogs, as well as Ole Miss, to make a strong push for Alexander’s services in the next couple of years.
For the next four years, however, Belmont High has the talented player to insert into its lineup.
“There’s something different with him,” said Deaton, who already has enough confidence in Alexander to play him in critical games. “He’s got a different skill set than most kids.
“He’s got a shot to do some big things.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.