WOODSTOCK — A year ago, Erikson Lanning never could have predicted that he would be named the 2014 Cherokee Tribune Pitcher of the Year.
It isn’t that Lanning, who recently completed his junior year at Sequoyah, wasn’t skilled on the mound. He had just never been to Cherokee County, much less played baseball here.
A year ago, he was looking forward to his junior year at Marcus High School, about an hour north of Dallas, Texas. The 6-foot-2 left-hander, who was described by scouts as having a “largelean athletic frame with room to fill” and an “easy, long-loose arm action” was prized for his fastball and slider. He was named one of the top prospects in Texas by Perfect Game and was an all-division player in the sophomore season.
However, things changed for Lanning in the offseason, as his family moved to Woodstock just prior to the 2014 season. He said it was tough to leave his friends and teammates in Texas, but he knew it had to be done.
One way to adjust to the move was to throw himself into the team at Sequoyah.
“I got settled in real quick,” Lanning said. “The team has a great group of guys and I felt like they were my brothers right off the bat. It was a good season because we all clicked on the field. It was a special team.”
When Lanning first arrived in Woodstock, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to get on the team at Sequoyah. With a dozen seniors on the roster, he knew it would be hard to find a place, but he spoke with coach Joseph Jones and tried out for the team.
“I wasn’t sure how it would work out,” Lanning said. “I threw a bullpen (session) and talked to the coach a little bit and told him about my situation. That was that. I was on the team.”
Lanning wasn’t just on the roster, he was a big part of the Chiefs’ success. He led the pitching staff with six wins and struck out 65 batters in 63 innings of work. In the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs, he pitched a nohitter against Rome.
When he is on the mound, Lanning said he thinks of “absolutely nothing.” He doesn’t think about his next pitch or the batter at the plate.
“If I think of anything, it’s getting the next out,” Lanning said. “I’m pretty focused. It’s pretty natural when I get up there. All that is in my head is baseball. That’s it.”
Lanning, who has largely given up hitting since moving to Georgia, is playing for the Atlanta Blue Jays during the summer. His fastball recently topped 90 mph at the World Wood Bat Association championships and he’s drawing interest from Division I colleges around the Southeast.
“I’ve been pretty blessed,” Lanning said. “It’s exciting and it’s very stressful at the same time, but I know it will all work out in the end.” Lanning, who lived in Michigan until he was 10, watched an older cousin go through the recruiting process and eventually play for Michigan State. He said that inspired him.
“He was my role model, and that is what got me interested,” Lanning said. “I wanted to play like him.”