The best-laid plans often go awry, and for former Mansfield High School pitcher Kyle LaBerge, this could not be better news.
The hero of the Tigers’ area round, 4-0 victory over Coppell this past season was headed to Navarro Junior College this fall, but due to recruiting issues, is instead on his way to the University of Texas at Arlington, where he will have the opportunity to play for a Division I program that finished 33-26 last season and lost in the Sun Belt Conference title game.
Coach Gary Vaughan said that LaBerge brought a lot to the Mansfield program and will be missed.
“He was our key left-handed pitcher,” Vaughan said. “He had to fill some big shoes from last year, and he did exactly that. He stepped up, and was our number-two pitcher and number-one left-hander who we rode all year long.”
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Vaughan said he was not sure of the specifics of the recruiting issues with UTA, but said he does believe his former hurler will be a good fit with the Mavericks.
“It was a nice surprise for him,” Vaughan said. “UTA had some unexpected draftees and it opened up some room to pull him up and offer him a place, which is great for him. I think he will probably fill a specialty role for them.
“He doesn't have overpowering stuff; but he has sneaky stuff that moves a lot. His fastball is probably mid-80s, and dips and dives on people, and he has a great change up to follow that up. I can see him coming in as a good specialty role sometime late in the ball game.”
LaBerge has three strong pitches, his fastball, curve and change up, and Vaughan said he believes that the southpaw will prove to be a good addition to the Mavericks pitching staff.
“As usual, they go off and gain 15 pounds of muscle, and that is one thing he is going to need to do, is get stronger,” Vaughan said. “He is going to need to put on some muscle weight and get his arm a little stronger. Then he just needs to continue to focus on the three pitches that he has and keep them fine tuned. I believe he will be successful.”
Vaughan said that LaBerge will be missed at Mansfield High School and said that he believes that the UTA pitcher will be remembered in a very special way.
“Kyle started showing us stuff his junior year in the playoffs,” Vaughan said. “He started giving us some great innings, which he had not seen from him until then. He did a fantastic job for us. His senior year, we expected him to step up ... and he did a super job in district play and the playoffs for us.
“The best game for him this year was the Coppell game. Our number one wasn't able to go, and he pitched five good innings for us and shut them out 4-0. We were able to win the ballgame for the area round. That's the sort of thing people will remember.”