MHS’s Crawford to pitch at UPike

Jay Compton jcompton@civitasmedia.com

May 13, 2014

Middlesboro senior Lucas Crawford has signed to play baseball at the University of Pikeville. Crawford officially signed with UPike on Tuesday and the right-hander will be looking to earn a spot in the Bears’ pitching rotation.

“It’s a good opportunity to continue my baseball career and maybe fool around and get a degree while I’m at it,” Crawford said.

He will major in Education and hopes to become a Special Education teacher and a baseball coach in the future.

Crawford joins several local players that have recently gone to UPike. The list includes former teammates Jake Partin and Hunter Adams as well as former Bell County baseball player Adam Overbay. His current teammate Tyler Prater is also going to Pikeville to play football.

He said he’s most looking forward to spending time in a different part of the state.

“Two and a half hours is not too far and not too close. I like the town and the conditions I’ll be living in,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting out for a little while. I hope to eventually come back here, but I think it will be good for me to meet some new faces and some new people.”

Crawford has been pitching in big games for the Yellow Jackets since his sophomore season and has taken on the role of staff ace the past two years. One of his most appealing attributes for college coaches is his competitiveness and the bulldog mentality he takes to the mound in those big spots.

Middlesboro coach John Smith said that demeanor and drive to succeed will serve Crawford well in college both on and off the field.

“They got an outstanding pitcher. I think he’ll fit into the rotation nicely, if not this year then by his sophomore year at least,” he said. “He’s also a good defensive player and they’ve offered him a chance to play some defense on the JV squad this year. More importantly they’re getting a great kid. He’s an outstanding young man and he’ll represent Middlesboro and UPike well.”

While Crawford is not an overpowering pitcher, he hits his spots well and when he’s locating his fastball and change-up on the corners he’s been very tough for opposing hitters to square up. He also gets some swings and misses and weak grounders by getting hitters to chase his curve. Smith said there’s room for Crawford’s stuff to grow as he matures.

“I’ve coached him since he was a freshman, two years as an assistant and two years as head coach, and he’s added velocity every year. We’ve worked hard on his off-speed stuff and he’s got a breaking ball he can throw from two different arm slots — over the top or three-quarters to get a little different break and action on it,” Smith said. “I’ve coached in high school for 12 years now and he’s probably got one of the top change-ups I’ve seen out of a high school pitcher. He can locate all of his pitches and he gets movement both ways. He’s a competitor that wants the ball in big situations and I think he’s going to do well (at the next level).”