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Noah LaFine proving upside as Vanderbilt baseball commit

Noah LaFine proving upside as Vanderbilt baseball commit
Noah LaFine has helped lead Archbishop Hoban to two consecutive state championship game appearances. (Credit: Mike Cardew via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

AKRON, Ohio (BVM) – Noah LaFine has proved in his two seasons at Archbishop Hoban High School that his baseball future is as bright as any. It’s a future that still includes two more seasons of high school ball for the rising junior, but one that could also include high-level college baseball, and perhaps the pros as well.

“Ever since I started playing baseball, it’s always been a dream,” LaFine said about playing in the MLB someday. “I just have to keep working and make the dream come true.”

LaFine seems destined for a chance in pro baseball at some point down the line. But for now, the pitcher is committed to play at SEC powerhouse Vanderbilt, a program that has won a couple of College World Series titles over the past decade. Making his declaration to the Commodores back in 2020, LaFine was dead set on Vandy despite having well over two dozen schools to choose from, including Ohio State, Tennessee, Duke, South Carolina and Florida State. 

“With Vandy, they were always my dream school,” LaFine said. “Once I got the offer, I kind of knew I was going to commit there … When I go to Vandy, I’m going to hope to go to Omaha and win a national championship.”

Noah LaFine Archbishop Hoban Vanderbilt baseball
Noah LaFine committed to Vanderbilt before he had even played a single game in high school (Credit: Mike Cardew / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Winning is nothing new for the Hoban pitcher, who first began baseball at 4 years old after watching his older brother play.

“Watching him growing up got me into the sport,” LaFine said. “When I played it, I just liked it a lot and just kept playing it.”

By third grade, LaFine found his true talent in the sport as he began pitching. Through his middle school years, he started pitching at higher levels and on national stages, realizing his talent even further. 

It was at that time that scouts already began taking notice of LaFine. During the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic while things were shut down, LaFine posted a video of himself throwing in the mid 80s. 

Continuing to put in work during the end of his eighth grade year led the pitcher to receive interest from local schools in Ohio State and Penn State.

“I made sure that I didn’t slack off,” LaFine said. “I made sure to keep a regimen and continue to throw. Continuing to do that and get stronger, I think it helped me. When the games came around, I was at full potential.”

LaFine again impressed once he got back into action, throwing 88 mph in a game over the summer that garnered attention from SEC schools. 

Before he even threw a pitch at the high school level, LaFine was a Vandy commit.

Part of the reason for LaFine’s early recruiting came from the success he has had in showcase games on national stages through organizations like Prep Baseball Report, Perfect Game and Baseball Factory.

“In 14U, that’s when scouts started coming out,” LaFine said. “So pitching in the bigger games, it made me more comfortable because I had eyes on me. So when high school came along, and especially the state championship, I felt like I had already been through the circumstances.”

LaFine also credits his travel baseball career and getting to go up against the best of the best game in and game out for having him prepared for such success.

“It helps you push yourself,” LaFine said. “You see the other kids and what they’re doing, so you want to be able to hopefully become the best on your team.”

During his 14U season, the rising junior led his USA Prime travel squad to a national championship win in Georgia.

“Going off and winning a national championship was really cool,” LaFine said. “It just showed how all the hard work everyone put in helped us.”

The moments LaFine has already shined in throughout his young career have had him more than prepared for high school baseball at Hoban. Ranked in the top five in Ohio and within the top 20 nationally in the Class of 2024 over the last few years, LaFine has not felt any pressure and just keeps working to get even better.

Noah LaFine Archbishop Hoban Vanderbilt baseball
Noah LaFine was an important part of Hoban’s 16-game win streak that culminated in a state title in 2021. (Credit: Karen Schiely via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

“You obviously look at it, everyone looks at it, but it’s not something you truly focus on,” LaFine said about the rankings. “There’s still a lot of time, people can still grow and get better.”

Going into his freshman season, the pitcher and his Knights’ teammates knew they had a special group, one that had a chance to make a deep postseason run.

“I think everyone thought we had a chance to make a run and win a state championship,” LaFine said. “We started off the year a little slow, but we picked it up, came together and we just went on a streak.”

That run would include a 14-game winning streak that led the Knights all the way to state. Once there, Hoban took care of business in the semifinals, and went on to face Bloom-Carroll in the OHSAA Division II championship where LaFine got the ball in yet another big moment.

“I was confident,” LaFine said. “Obviously, I had a few nerves going into the game … I was glad about my performance, I put my team in a position to win and they went out there and did their thing.”

Once again, the standout pitcher thrived across his six innings of work, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out seven. It wasn’t an easy game for the Knights, as Bloom-Carroll took them to extra innings, but a sac fly in the 10th gave Hoban a 2-1 lead that they would hold to win the title.

“It was so cool,” LaFine said. “It’s something that not many people get to experience. We’re one of four teams in the state to be able to do it.”

After starting the season just 8-9, the Knights peeled off 16 in a row to cap a magical season. A lot of that was due to the emergence of their young players, including LaFine, who finished the season with a 2.10 ERA and 56 strikeouts.

With its young core intact, Hoban was poised to again find success in 2022, and a repeat at state was the goal from day one.

“I think everyone had the same goal, I know I did, and it was to win the state championship again,” LaFine said.

This time around, Hoban started the season off better, and yet again looked dominant at the end, putting together a 10-game winning streak. The final win of that run came in a 4-3 victory over Washington State commit Nik Copenhaver and Hamilton Badin in the state semifinals where LaFine gave up two runs on just four hits, striking out six batters.

However, Hoban’s reign would end in the state championship game against Chardon. Despite a 5-3 lead going into the sixth inning, Chardon would score five runs in the frame to claim its first state championship with an 8-5 victory over the Knights (23-10).

It’s a loss that stings for LaFine and the rest of his team, but making it all the way back to the state championship game is something he is proud of. The loss also has LaFine primed for better results next season.

“I was proud, it’s not easy to make it to state,” LaFine said. “I think people were disappointed, but when you look at it, it’s nothing to hang your head about. It gives you some motivation for next year. We want to go out and win it because now we know what it feels like to win it and what it feels like to lose it.”

With similar numbers to his freshman year, LaFine will look to take a step forward as a junior. However, his team goals remain the same. The standout pitcher has a bright future ahead at Vandy and beyond, but first, it’s all about cementing what could be a truly special legacy at Hoban.

“Same goal for junior and senior year, go out and win a state championship,” LaFine said. “Hopefully we can leave a mark to be the best team ever in Hoban history.”

Originals

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