Mansfield pitcher steps into bigger role after big junior year

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 31, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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In Game 2 of Mansfield baseball’s bi-district series with Killeen Harker Heights, pitcher Kyle Laberge made a name for himself.

As a junior, Laberge saw spotty playing time as Mansfield’s left handed specialist out of the bullpen, but he was called upon to eat up four innings in Mansfield’s 11-4 win.

“Our starter struggled early, and (Laberge) kept us in the ball game and got us a big win in the second game of the playoffs. He’s a good one for us,” Mansfield pitching coach Randy Davis said.

With that playoff performance, Laberge set himself up to be one of Mansfield’s top pitchers for his senior season.

While seeing just 20 2/3 innings last year, the southpaw picked up 30 strikeouts with an ERA of 1.81. However, stats aside, he was a constant for the Mansfield coaching staff whenever they called his number.

Laberge relies mostly on his fastball, which has enough pace and movement to demand respect from hitters, head coach Gary Vaughan said. Once he has hitters on their back foot, he comes back with an arsenal of off speed pitches that include a slow curve, fast curve and a change-up. The key to his success has been his ability to keep hitters off balance, Vaughan said.

“We watched him mature during the year to where we knew he was dependable when we put them in there,” Vaughan said.

As Laberge prepares for his final high school season by playing select ball throughout the summer, both coaches said he is putting in the work to be either a left-handed starter for his high school team or perhaps the team’s shutdown closer again coming out of the bullpen.

Regardless, the experience he gained from last year’s playoff run makes him one of the veteran players on the squad which naturally calls for team leadership, Davis said.

“He needs to, especially being a senior,” Davis said. “With the experience he gained last year he’s going to need to step up and take on a bigger role and I’m sure he can get that done.”

Part of that bigger role could possibly be spending innings in the outfield tracking down pop flies for Mansfield, as a large graduating class last season left several holes for the coaching staff to fill.

Vaughn said his willingness to help wherever he can is what will make him a quality leader for his team this season.

“He’s just a great kid that works hard,” Vaughn said. “He’s interested in possibly playing another position, so he’s always jumping out in the outfield drills. He works hard in his bullpen sessions. He’s real quiet. He’s just one of those real quiet kids you don’t hear a lot out of, but over the years you learn what he’s capable of doing and that you can trust him when you put him out there.”

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