Lukas Schiraldi will likely be drafted in the first five to six rounds in June’s Major League Baseball draft. Navarro’s right-hander already has signed with the University of Texas.
His baseball career will continue at the next level after the JUCO World Series. Schiraldi will start one of Navarro’s first two games in Grand Junction, where the Bulldogs open the 2013 national championship tournament at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night against Connors State.
Getting to this point is remarkable, even with good genes — his father, Calvin, is a former first-round draft pick who teamed with Roger Clemens to win a national championship at the University of Texas in 1983 and who pitched for eight seasons in the Major Leagues.
Lukas’ improvement started late last year in his final few starts as a freshman for the Bulldogs, and has carried over to this spring. The 6-foot-6 sophomore has put together a 10-0 record, a 1.54 ERA and 66 strikeouts while earning conference Pitcher of the Year honors.
“I saw him in the fall of his freshman year and he’s light years from that point,” said a Major League scout who has seen Schiraldi pitch numerous times at Navarro. “He was intriguing because he’s big and he went from throwing 86-88 mph with not much of a breaking ball to a really improved fastball and his breaking ball is better.”
Lukas didn’t start pitching exclusively until his senior season at St. Michael’s private school located in West Austin. Before that, he played left field or third base. He did that to be different from his father.
“He wanted me to want to pitch,” Schiraldi said. “I didn’t want to pitch until I got to high school.”
Lukas arrived at Navarro in the fall of his freshman year throwing over the top. He switched to a more traditional three-quarters arm slot and his started topping out his fastball at 90-91 mph. He finished his freshman season strong, pitching well as Navarro was runnerup at the Region XIV Tournament.
He credits Navarro coach Whoa Dill, a former pitcher, for helping him with his rise up the draft charts.
“I want to play in the big leagues just like my dad,” Lukas said. “I’m a stubborn kid so I didn’t want to listen to him. I had to over time make the adjustment with the help from Whoa and myself that this actually works.”
Schiraldi picked up steam this fall, as an offseason of long toss and time in the weight room helped him get to 94 to 95 mph with his fastball. He also transitioned from pitching out of the stretch to the windup.
“There’s no limit to this guy,” Dill said. “He’s going to play on TV someday.”
Whether he signs with a big league organization or pitches for the Longhorns remains to be seen. Signability is expected to be an issue, scouts said.
“I expect him to end up at Texas,” a big league scout said. “If he keeps getting better and improving, and maturing and getting strong, he’ll move up. He just needs a more consistent breaking ball, cleaner arm action and a proven track record.”
For his part, Lukas isn’t too concerned about the distant future, only the JUCO World Series. He’s enjoyed pitching in front of scouts. He knows it helps him and his teammates.
“It’s pretty cool,” Lukas said. “You can’t say it’s not awesome to have them there. You can’t think about when you go into a game. You have to be focused on that and what you’re doing rather than what’s going on around you.
“It will be a new season next year,” he said. “That’s the way I’m looking at it. Whichever opportunity comes.”