In the middle of a tight game or a tough inning, Layne Looney might be chatting up teammates or laughing to himself between pitches.
It’s hardly the intense demeanor that so many pitchers use to try and intimidate their opponents or psych themselves up. Rather, the Highland Park senior finds his approach relaxing, and the results certainly put his teammates and coaches at ease.
That’s what happens when you throw four no-hitters in a season, as Looney did last year, when he was 9-0 during the regular season with an earned-run average of less than one. Oh, and he also led the Scots in batting average.
Looney isn’t physically imposing at just 5 feet, 10 inches, but his 93 mph fastball can change your perception of him in a hurry.
“When people look at you, they react in certain ways,” Looney said. “When I walk out there, people who don’t know me might look at me and blow me off.”
As recently as a year ago, Looney never expected to become the ace of the HP pitching staff. He originally planned to be a catcher, then a relief pitcher, after a couple of successful outings as a sophomore.
When his junior year began, Looney was coming off an arm injury and told HP head coach Travis Yoder he might be a good fit as a reliever, perhaps the closer. But a starting pitcher?
“I didn’t think I fit that role,” Looney said. “I thought I would just pitch two or three inning and then go back to catching.”
In his first start during a tournament game against Round Rock McNeil, Looney threw an abbreviated no-hitter, with the Scots winning 12-0 in five innings. Not long afterward, he knew his catching days were over.
“We saw that his arm was strong enough to go more than one inning,” Yoder said. “What puts him in the upper echelon is his even-keel attitude. He doesn’t let a lot of things get to him.”
Looney earned Class 4A all-state honors last season, and in November signed to play collegiately at the University of Richmond. But Yoder thinks Looney might be even better this season, with several more shutouts under his belt.
“That last year gave him some confidence,” Yoder said. “Last year, he was more of a thrower. This year, he’s learning how to pitch. He doesn’t yell or scream. He’s a leader by example.”
Looney knows his routine is unusual and his mannerisms are eccentric. But those same attributes give him the best chance to win.
“There’s no point in getting all tense. It throws off your mindset,” he said. “I just relax and do my best to remain calm It helps me keep my mind off of things and pitch better.”