By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL/Designated Writers
The story of Trenton Lape isn’t what he could have done, it’s what he has done.
The Parkway senior has been one of the state’s top baseball prospects since the day he showed up in high school.
About the time he was still trying to figure out where the science lab was, he had already had a scholarship offer for LSU, which he accepted.
Think about that for a moment: he’s a few days into his freshman year of high school and one of the nation’s top college baseball programs had already offered him a future spot in the dugout.
And he was still months away from throwing his first varsity pitch.
When Lape began his high school baseball career, he was already secure in what his college baseball career was going to be about.
That was Trenton Lape at 14 years old.
But what about Trenton Lape at 18 years old?
Let’s just say things didn’t quite go according to plan.
GO AHEAD AND CHART the course on what you think Lape’s high school career should have been like. Feel free to even go a little bit over the top.
After all, in the fall of his sophomore year, his fastball was timed at 93 miles per hour – that’s the 99th percentile even among prospects – and he had picked up about 10 mph in only 18 months.
OK, so he wasn’t going to do that again, but what would that career arc look like? It wasn’t unreasonable to think that he could have added at least a couple of miles per hour each year. Mid 90s? High 90s?
But hang on for a minute. He was also off the charts as a position player as well, both as an outfield and an infielder. His throwing velocity in both of those positions was above the 95th percentile.
Perfect Game USA is recognized as the premier scouting organization for a high school prospect. Their rating system is based on a 1-to-10 scale, with the description of a 10 being “potential very high draft pick and/or elite level college prospect.”
As a sophomore, Trenton Lape had a rating of 9.5 with the comment “Projectable here, to say the least, as he will throw very hard one day.”
And one day he may. That’s the goal.
But for now, he’s just trying to do the best he can with what he has as the Panthers will head into the second round of the Division I (non-Select) playoffs this weekend in a best-of-three series against St. Amant in Gonzales.
He’s a center fielder now for Parkway and an occasional relief pitcher, not a “potential very high draft pick.” But that’s OK, because Lape is way too busy focusing on being the best baseball player he can be for where he is in his baseball career.
“It’s my senior year,” he says. “I’m going to do whatever I can to help my team.”
But does he wonder what it would be like if he hadn’t had to take a couple of detours?
“I think about that every day,” Lape says. “It’s something that goes through my head all the time.”
TRENTON LAPE WAS ROCKING along during his sophomore season, almost exactly as the career arc suggested it would.
In 2021, he was 4-2 with a 1.85 ERA and struck out 68 batters in 41 innings. A month into the season, he threw a no-hitter with incredible efficiency — striking out 11 and yet only threw 70 pitchers. His fastball that night was clocked at 92 miles per hour.
But a month later, without warning, it happened.
It was a game against Haughton in the final week of the regular season and Lape was scheduled to pitch in a big district game.
“I went out to long toss that day, but I hadn’t even reached the full distance and my arm started to hurt,” Lape remembers. “I got on the mound and was still getting it up there pretty good. But by the fourth inning, it was hurting worse and worse.”
He received a diagnosis of bone spurs and he had surgery in the beginning of that summer. Not the news that any pitcher wants, but not the worst news he could get.
At least not yet.
As it turned out, it wasn’t bone spurs after all; it was actually a UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) injury, so Lape had another surgery for that in November, 2021.
And that one failed as well.
Rather than sit out his junior year, Lape was able to recover enough to play second base and was one of the top hitters in leading Parkway to a share of the District 1-5A championship.
After a year away from pitching, the hope was that he would be able to return to form for his senior year. That hope never became a reality. The surgery he had during the fall of his junior year did not do what had been hoped.
“I didn’t get hurt again,” he says. “I’m still hurt. The last two years have been a grind. I’m just playing though it as best I can.”
“He’s more than just a pitcher,” says Parkway coach Brian Harvey. “He’s really put his heart into being a better hitter. And you can really see that.”
Once his senior year is completed and everyone else is on their Senior Trip, Lape will be having yet another surgery on May 31. This time, rather than just repairing it, he will undergo a complete “Tommy John” surgery to give him a new ulnar collateral ligament.
“A year ago, he didn’t even know if he was going to even be able to play his senior year,” Harvey says. “He does play with some pain, but he’s able to manage it.”
That’s the physical pain. There is also some mental pain as well for Lape.
When he plays center field, Lape has to make a play occasionally. Maybe run down a fly ball or cut a line drive off In the gap. Every scouting report on him notes his athleticism, so playing the outfield instead of being on the mound has never been an issue.
But it’s nothing like standing on the mound with one of the best arms in high school baseball and being able to control everything that happens. He has been able to pitch on occasion – mostly in relief – and has had some success. Lape is still able to throw in the high 80s, a speed that most other high school pitchers can only dream about.
Still, it’s not the same.
“I can get on the mound and throw about 75 or 80 percent of my max,” Lape says. “But it’s going to hurt for about a week.”
His new doctor has told him that throwing hard is not going injure his arm any more than it already is. After all, there’s a new UCL waiting on him at the end of May. Might as well get as much as he can out of the old one.
“He is a little frustrated that he hasn’t been able to be on the mound and be in control of the game like he was earlier in his high school career,” Harvey says. “I think he has come to grips with it a little bit. I think he’s just happy just to be able to play his senior year and contribute to the team.”
Lape knows he’s likely headed for a redshirt year once he gets to LSU, but he’s not necessarily going to be a pitcher once he gets to Baton Rouge. Sure, his arm is what got him noticed in the first place, but he’s been a primarily been a second baseman and an outfielder the last two years, so he’s nothing if not versatile.
“When he does get in the mound sometimes, you see a glimpse of the prize LSU is getting,” Harvey says. “When he is healthy, it’s going to be a good thing to see.”
NOBODY PROMISED LAPE THAT it was going to be an easy road on the way to playing Division I baseball. Sometimes it has seemed like an endless series of showcases camps and calls from college coaches and interviews with scouts and talent evaluators.
“I still feel like when I’m on the mound, I can strike out anybody and when I’m at the plate, I can get a hit off anybody,” Lape says. “But this whole experience has taught me a lot.”
Meanwhile, he’s just kept doing the same thing, no matter what physical ailment has come his way. He just goes to work, whether it is a hitting session at 9 o’clock at night or a little extra work on pitching technique.
“I could sit here and say there were a lot of things that contributed, whether it was the doctor or the surgery,” Lape says. “But I think it just came down to this: I just got unlucky and stuff happens. I’ve just to do what I can to work through it and get back to where I was.”
When it’s time to go, Trenton Lape wants to make sure he’s ready to go.
No matter what.
No matter when.
Photographs by John James Marshall