More baseball ahead for LaGrange’s Lanier
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It wasn’t supposed to be the end.
When the LaGrange Grangers played Spalding County in the second game of a doubleheader on March 12, they were looking ahead to the start of region play the following week.
That game, it turns out, was the final one of the season for the Grangers, with play shut down across the state the following day because of the coronavirus threat.
The star of that final game for LaGrange was senior Walton Lanier, who threw six shutout innings in a 6-0 victory.
“We didn’t know it then, but I kind of have the honor now of being out on the mound for the last game,” Lanier said.
Lanier was obviously hoping to see his senior season to its conclusion, but that’s not going to happen.
The good news for Lanier is that he’ll have more baseball to play.
Lanier has committed to play baseball at Central Alabama Community College in Alexander City, and he’s hoping to be in the lineup when the season begins in February.
“To me, it was the coach (Larry Thomas) that showed a lot of interest in me, and made me feel like he really wanted me to come there,” Lanier said. “That makes you want to consider it more, if they want you more.”
Lanier added that “I’ve always wanted to take baseball as far as I can, and this is the first step toward it.”
Lanier’s senior season started late as he recovered from a shoulder injury, but by the fourth game he was in the lineup, and he helped the Grangers finish with a 9-4 record.
Lanier was a fixture as LaGrange’s second baseman the past two seasons, and he was also a valuable member of the pitching staff.
While Lanier was recruited as a position player, LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch wouldn’t be surprised if he gets an opportunity to pitch in college as well.
“They want him as a second baseman, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t pitch,” Branch said. “His velocity really went up in this last year, and he turned out to be a quality pitcher. He would have been big for us this year. He’d just thrown a shutout to end our season. He threw a three-hit shutout on the road against a team that could swing it a little bit. He kept getting better.”
Walton threw some pitches during a recruiting visit to Central Alabama, and he made a positive impression.
“We kind of talked about that, me and coach Thomas, the head coach over there,” Lanier said. “He told me that when they’re running short on arms, he’d definitely let me get out there, because he liked the way I threw in the bullpen over there.”
Lanier is part of a family that’s closely tied to LaGrange High athletics.
His older sister, Abbi Lynn Lanier, was a tennis standout at LaGrange, and his younger sister Adeline Lanier is a sophomore on the LaGrange tennis team.
For his part, Walton Lanier has helped LaGrange’s baseball program enjoy plenty of success.
When Lanier was a freshman the Grangers made it to the state semifinals, and they won a first-round series in the state tournament last year.
Lanier said “it’s been great” to be a part of the baseball program.
“It is a family, and we treat each other like brothers, and love each other like brothers, and there’s nothing better,” Lanier said.