One of the driving forces in Lane Thomas’ initial recruiting process – a key reason in his decision to sign with Southeastern Louisiana out of Walker High School – was pitching coach Daniel Latham.
As fate would have it by the time Thomas arrived in Hammond, Latham was gone, having accepted a similar position on the staff at Tulane under head coach Travis Jewitt.
Two years later, they’ll be reunited.
Thomas, who became the staff ace at Jones (Miss.) County Junior College after leaving SLU last season, committed to Tulane after an official visit last weekend.
“There was always interest out of high school,” Thomas said of Tulane. “I committed to Southeastern because of coach Latham and when I got there he left, and I was bummed out because he’s one pitching coach I always wanted to pitch for. Now that I’m going to, it’s really exciting for next year.”
Thomas, who also visited Alabama-Birmingham and SLU, plans to sign with the Green Wave during the NCAA’s early signing period Nov. 14-21.
“It’s tough, I know almost everyone on the team at Southeastern from last year,” Thomas said. “I talked with my parents and Tulane was the school. Nothing against Southeastern at all. It’s a great school. They’re both great schools that have great baseball programs, but at the end of the day I wanted to do what was best for me and Tulane was the option.”
Had it not been for the most trying period in his young life – a more than three-month battle with mononucleosis, strep throat and an enlarged spleen – Thomas would be preparing for his sophomore season at Southeastern.
Instead, Thomas transferred to Jones where the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder resumed the form that made him the All-Parish Pitcher of the Year in his final season at Walker.
After regaining the requisite strength and weight – he lost nearly 25 pounds during his ordeal – Thomas rebounded to finished 9-2 in 13 appearances. He worked 71.2 innings, striking out 73 batters (average of 9.17 per nine innings) against just 33 walks and a 3.01 earned run average.
Thomas said starter pitchers will be limited to two-inning outings during the team’s fall outings which include games this weekend in Jackson (Miss.) against Meridian and Gulf Coast and a Oct. 11 doubleheader with Coastal Alabama-North at the campus of South Alabama in Mobile.
“Last fall I was in bed the entire fall, not doing anything,” he said. “I had to play catch up when I got to Jones. I love having a fall. Getting more time with the coaches and actually getting to practice, throwing to live hitters. It’s helped me develop more of my pitches and work on velocity.”
One of the highlights of the fall for sophomore players in the state of Mississippi’s junior college ranks was Sept. 13 where they were able to take part in the Sophomore Showcase.
Pitchers were able to throw 15-pitch bullpens before the watchful eyes of either college head coaches or pitching coaches and the result for Thomas brought a smile to his face when he received a text from Latham the following morning, setting the foundation for the official visit.
“I fell in love with Tulane,” he said. “What the coaches are doing there is unreal. The commits they’ve had in the past week or two, Tulane’s going to be put back on the map soon. It’s just unreal.”
Thomas said it didn’t take long to develop a strong rapport with Jewitt, who told Thomas he expects him to contend for a weekend starter’s role in 2021.
“I knew right away from talking to the coaches at Tulane that I could become close with them, create a relationship with them that would stick with me forever,” he said. “I instantly felt that after meeting coach Jewitt. It just clicked as soon as I met him.”