College baseball: Graham hopes to keep hitting at Surry

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 6, 2023


By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan graduate Lucas Graham will quietly head to Surry Community College for baseball and classes on Aug. 16.

There was no major recruiting circus for the 5-foot-11 infielder.

“It was kind of a drawn-out recruiting process,” he said. “For a long time I thought I would go to Caldwell Community College because (former Falcons) Steven Smith and JT Fecteau went there, but in the end, I decided on Surry. There’s a bunch of us going to Surry from the Rowan County Legion team. Matthew Connolly, Elijah Palmer, Zach McNeely and me from West and Emory Taylor and Mikey Beasley from Carson.”

Colleges didn’t make a lot of fuss about Graham because he’s short on power and because he can’t run like some of his buddies.

But Graham produced consistently for the Falcons in football and baseball and for the Rowan County American Legion team.

He was able to leave his mark on the West record books in two sports because his heart, his head and his work ethic are elite.

In baseball, the things you can’t measure are more important than pure ability. It really doesn’t matter how fast you can run if you can’t put it in play. It really doesn’t matter how strong your arm is if you can’t throw strikes.

The Surry-bound guys headed over to the West Rowan baseball field to take some swings a few days ago, and they could see and hear the bustle of activity on the football practice field. Graham was out there with those beefy football guys at this time last year. After losing his sophomore football season to an injury and backing up Noah Loeblein as a junior, Graham got his chance to be the starting QB for coach Louis Kraft as a senior.

The results were startling. Graham was better than anyone could have anticipated. He threw for a West season record 2,426 yards and set the single-game school passing record with 388 yards against Davie. Adrian Stockton and Evan Kennedy made most of those huge yards happen with their hands and wheels, but Graham got the ball to them. He threw 20 touchdown passes and rushed for six TDs. He had one of the best one-year careers in Rowan QB history.

“I had a good enough senior season with West that I started thinking about college football a little bit,” Graham said. “I’m going to miss football, but I have to be realistic. I’ve known for years that baseball was my best chance to play in college.”

Graham turned in a phenomenal senior high school baseball season as West’s second baseman. He played for his uncle, head coach Seth Graham.

Graham batted .506 for the Falcons, the highest batting average posted by a Falcon in this century. That lofty mark was achieved against some top-notch arms in the South Piedmont Conference. To put .506 in perspective, West’s team hit .268.

Lucas Graham accumulated 43 hits, 40 of them singles, in 26 games. That’s the most hits by a West player since Bryan Graham logged 50 during his fantastic 2004 season for a 3A state runner-up team that played 34 games.

Graham basically performed the same act for the Rowan County American Legion team this summer. Every game was Singles Night. He produced a team-high 58 hits — 50 singles and eight doubles.

He batted .406. He wasn’t going to hit the ball out of the park, but head coach Jim Gantt had him batting third in the lineup because he was a high-percentage option. A lefty hitter, he smacked numerous line-drive singles to the opposite field.

“I just wish a few more of my hits were doubles and triples,” Graham said.

The radio crew at WSAT dubbed Graham the “Hit Man,” and when Ken Anderson or Jason Smith said the “Hit Man” was on deck, everyone listening at home knew whom they were talking about.

“I really didn’t know I ended up over .400,” Graham said. “There was a tremendous jump as far as the quality of the arms we were seeing once we got into the playoffs against Randolph County and High Point, and then in the state tournament.”

Graham’s last swing in the state tournament was one he’ll remember. He grounded into a game-ending double play against Wayne County with the bases loaded. That was just the luck of the draw. He made contact. With better luck that ground ball finds a hole instead of a glove.

It’s been said many times, but it bears repeating that baseball is a game of failure. Even the Hall of Famers make two outs for every hit they get.

The “Hit Man” will move on and bounce back.  There’s no doubt about that.

“The last two games I was struggling the most I have all summer, was trying different things, and the state tournament isn’t the best time to be doing that,” Graham said.

While he played second base for West Rowan, Graham made a transition to third base for the Legion team this summer. It was successful, and third base may become his college position, even though most teams like to station a power hitter at third base.

Defensively, third base requires soft hands and a strong, accurate arm, but foot speed and agility are less essential than they are for a second baseman.

Brooks Robinson was the best third baseman who ever lived, but he wasn’t fast.

“I liked playing third base because the ball gets on you so quick that there’s no time to think about it,” Graham said. “The key to playing third base is having good reactions. The throws are a lot longer, but it wasn’t an issue. I was able to make the transition.”

Soon he may have an opportunity to make plays for the Surry Community College Knights.

Graham’s decision to go to Surry came late, so housing was in short supply. Graham’s father, Josh, solved that problem by buying a house in Mount Airy, which is a few miles north of the school.

Graham, Palmer, who was a big surprise as Rowan County’s starting center fielder, and McNeely plan to live together.

Graham plans to study business at Surry because once his baseball career ends he hopes to follow his father in a Mooresville-based family business — Josh’s Farmers Market.

“My dad has been very blessed in that business,” Graham said.