Rebels:

Handling one of life’s curveballs with aplomb, pitcher Joey Lauria proves he belongs at UNLV

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Ray Brewer, iphone photo

College of Southern Nevada baseball players, from left, Will Morris (Dixie State), Joey Lauria (UNLV), Morgan Stotts (UNLV) and Chad Whiteaker (Central Florida) are pictured with coach Nick Garritano (back) after signing their national letters of intent on Wednesday, November 14, 2012, at Morse Stadium in Henderson.

Joey Lauria wasn’t ready to play Division I baseball.

When Lauria, a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher, graduated from Legacy High in 2010, he was signed to join the team at UNLV. But new Rebels' coach Tim Chambers had other ideas, telling Lauria — who was a recruit of former coach Buddy Gouldsmith — he wasn’t part of the Rebels’ plans.

Turns out, that was the best thing that could have happened for his career.

Lauria, after taking a year off, came back with a vengeance last spring with aspirations of proving he belonged at a four-year school. Lauria was the College of Southern Nevada’s Friday night starter, finishing with a 7-3 record and a 4.52 earned run average and leading the Coyotes with 74 strikeouts.

More important, he dropped 30 pounds from his frame to 225 pounds, instantly transforming into the Coyotes’ ace. He hopes to take a similar role at UNLV.

Lauria signed with Chambers’ Rebels on Wednesday during the first day of the early signing period. He was one of four CSN players advance to a four-year school, joining infielders Morgan Stotts (UNLV) and Chad Whiteaker (Central Florida), and pitcher Will Morris (Dixie State College).

“Everything happens for a reason,” Lauria said. “Coming here (to CSN) was the best decision I’ve made in my life. It made me a better person and a better baseball player. I just wasn’t ready for UNLV (three years ago).”

After Garritano’s first season as the CSN coach ended in 2011, he received a phone call from Lauria asking for a tryout. Two weeks later, Lauria had one of the program's 14 full-ride scholarships.

“Joey wanted to prove some people wrong,” Garritano said. “He has come out with a chip on his shoulder. He is the leader of our staff. All the kids know it, all of the coaches know it. We knew two weeks (after he tried out) what we had. Two weeks in, we gave him a scholarship because he is that type of hard worker.”

While Lauria’s fastball tops out at 91 mph, his arsenal of off-speed pitches has made him successful, the coach said.

“He can throw any pitch at any time in the count,” Garritano said. “That is what makes him so tough to beat. He throws a very heavy ball with great sink action.”

Stotts, a Silverado High product, led all of junior college baseball with 27 doubles last year, which also broke the CSN single-season school record of 25. Stotts, an all-Region selection last year, batted .344 with eight home runs, six triples and 63 RBIs.

He battled injuries for most of his career at Silverado and had limited interest from colleges in high school. He was a walk-on at CSN.

“I never stopped working. I might have worked out every day,” Stotts said.

Third baseman Whiteaker also was an all-Region selection last spring, batting .354 with 20 doubles and seven home runs.

“I liked everything about (Central Florida). It was kind of a no-brainer for me,” he said.

Morris had a 2-2 record in 16 games as a relief pitcher last year, striking out 22 batters in 22 and 1/3 innings pitched. He said he picked Dixie State because of its new coach and great facilities.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Good story. Glad he didn't hold it against Chambers, and instead used it as motivation.