Sometimes in baseball, it’s better to be lucky than good. But as some people like to say, you make your own luck. That is exactly what Mike LaLonde is doing with his baseball career. A 2009 graduate from Willoughby South High School, has earned a spot on the Syracuse Salt Cats, a summer college wood bat team in the New York Collegiate Baseball League.
LaLonde is an upcoming senior this fall at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio where he has already lettered three times, spending the last two seasons as full time pitcher.
The 6’0 200 pitcher had to battle for playing time as a member of the South High Rebels and was recruited to Hiram as a catcher, shortstop, and outfielder as well as a pitcher.
After serving as the teams closer most of freshman year, LaLonde finally convinced Coach Howard Jenter to let him start a game. He wound up making four starts and led the Terriers with 24 strikeouts in 25 innings.
The move to full time starting pitcher and now the ace of the Terrier’s pitching staff has done many good things for LaLonde, who says he enjoys being a starter much more, and the role did bring him lots of success.
“I like the responsibility (of starting). I have more control and how the team does falls on me”, LaLonde said of anchoring the Hiram pitching staff for the last two season and hoping to do the same for his senior year next spring.
In addition to adding the responsibility to being the game one starter on the team’s Saturday double headers, LaLonde also knows he can be a leader on the team and takes on that responsibility willingly and happily.
Now that he is an elder statesman on the team he said he is getting more questions about how he goes about his work on the mound and about his pitching and preparation.
LaLonde is a leader on the field for the Terriers, but is also a good example for his teammates on the campus of Hiram. In addition to being the ace of the pitching staff, LaLonde wears many hats for his school. He is a Resident Advisor on campus, and is a part of Terries Action Smart Choice (TASL) where he puts on Friday night events for students, as alternatives other off campus activities. He is also on the Senior Athletic Advisory Council and is a part of the school’s Investment Club.
While he is the leading presence on the hill for the Terriers, LaLonde has also worked very hard on his craft and has put himself in position to play for his second college summer team.
Last summer, LaLonde was the Opening Day starter for the Carolina Stingers (now known as the Ballantyne Smokies) in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League.
LaLonde was told by the coach of the Stingers at the time that he may not pitch much as he was in a league filled with Division I and Division II baseball players, where as he came from the Division III Hiram Terriers. He had to work his way on to that team, and after a bullpen session, LaLonde said the coach told him he was the Opening Night starter for the season.
In that start against the Spartanburg Spartans, LaLonde allowed one run in five innings. He didn’t allow a hit and struck out four, facing 15 batters.
The 21 year old right hander has also had a multitude of experience facing very strong competition.
2 years ago, after his freshman year at Hiram, LaLonde pitched in Diamond League, a summer league in northeast Ohio. One of the hitters he got the chance to pitch against was current Cleveland Indians catching prospect, Alex Lavisky, who is a catcher for the Single-A Lake County Captains.
LaLonde has also played for the Lorain County Ironmen and former Cleveland Indians rookie of the year, Joe Charboneau, who coached the Ironmen in the Prospect League.
For the second straight summer, LaLonde will get to face some very stiff competition. He will join several other Division II and Division I college baseball players in the NYCBL and the Salt Cats.
Unlike many of the players on his upcoming team and around the league, LaLonde was not a heavy recruit. Much like last summer he spent I the SCBL, he had to market himself to plenty of teams to get a shot.
Numerous phone calls have been made by LaLonde, who credits his father for his passion and never ending dedication to the game. While he has had to do a good job of promoting himself to different teams, LaLonde continues to work hard for the Terriers.
On his own time during the season, Mike studies tape of all of his starts that are taped by his father.
“I spend about an hour watching film, seeing what I did wrong and how I can correct myself”, LaLonde says of his constant devotion to his craft.
He also says he spends time going over different situations, strategies, but continues to be his biggest critic, knowing he can do better.
What LaLonde does know now, is that he can hang with bigger competition, despite playing at a Division III school. Mike says out of all his experience last season with Carolina and his collegiate baseball career, is that he knows he can have success against anyone.
In 2011, the Terrier’s swept PSU-Fayette, aided by LaLonde’s shutout where he allowed one hit and struck out seven. In that start, LaLonde took a no hitter into the sixth inning. He also notched another complete game later in 2011.
In 2012, his first two starts, he compiled a 0.75 ERA in his first 12 innings pitched. He allowed just two runs on seven hits with 12 strikeouts and 6 walks. In his first seven starts, LaLonde allowed just five earned runs.
Despite a rocky end to his 2012 collegiate season, LaLonde finished with 47 strikeouts in 46.2 innings. He led the team with his 47 strikeouts and was second in innings pitched.
LaLonde’s 9.06 K/9 IP was ranked in the top 100 in all of division III. He also finished with a perfect fielding percentage in 13 chances.
This summer LaLonde will have the chance to anchor the staff for the Salt Cats for eight weeks, as they enter their third season of operation.
The Salt Cats are a part of the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball, along with seven other of the country’s most prestigious leagues and are affiliated with Major League Baseball.
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