Lukas Haefner does it all in Rayson Miller’s 7-2 win over James Cooke

Lukas Haefner earned the win on the mound (left) while scoring twice and getting two hits (right). (Photos: BILLY HEYEN)


PITTSFORD, N.Y. — It doesn’t really make sense that Lukas Haefner’s fastball sits in the mid-80s. He’s listed at 5-foot-9 on the Finger Lakes Community College roster, and the way his jersey hangs on his body, there’s certainly not much bulk there.

But that’s part of the fun of watching Haefner pitch, or hit, or field, or simply do anything near a diamond. He doesn’t stand out physically, but he does anytime a baseball is near him.

“Don’t ask me to explain how he can throw the ball as hard as he can throw the ball,” Rayson Miller head coach Tom Sapienza said. “Don’t ask me, because I don’t know. There are people twice his size who can’t break a pane of glass.”

Haefner contributed in all facets of Rayson Miller Post’s 7-2 win over James Cooke Post on Wednesday at Pittsford Sutherland High School. He pitched 4.1 innings with four strikeouts, allowing two runs to get the win. He went 2-for-4 at the plate, scoring two runs. And he fielded his position and moved to shortstop following his outing on the hill. The all-encompassing effort was part of Rayson Miller’s fifth win in five games to start the American Legion season season, a victory that kept the number two team in the standings, James Cooke, at bay.

“We were looking forward to the game because we know they’re a very good team, well coached,” Sapienza said. “… They’re gonna be formidable, and we’re a long way from being where we want to be.”

Before games he pitches, you might hear Haefner before you see him. He likes to chatter — something that extends to things like a between innings conversation with his catcher about how Haefner slept. He also makes the catcher’s mitt pop as soon as he starts firing in the bullpen.

Haefner’s role at FLCC this spring was mainly as a reliever, though, and he didn’t get off to an ideal start. A walk, hit and error loaded the bases for James Cooke with no outs in the top of the first.

With his back against the wall right away, Haefner locked in. A three-pitch strikeout, looking, got out number one. After falling behind 3-1, he induced a popup to Maxx Countryman at second for the second out. Then he painted the outside corner for another strikeout looking to end the frame and leave the three on base.

“I still don’t think I’m back to 100 percent yet,” Haefner said. “I haven’t thrown a full game in probably a year. But I’m definitely getting there.”

Haefner went on to work 1-2-3 second and third innings. Then after the speedy Zach Ochs led off bottom three with a reach-on-error and stolen base, Haefner knew his former Rush-Henrietta teammate would score on anything he put into the outfield. Facing a 3-2 curveball away but on the plate, Haefner just dropped it into right field to score the game’s opening run.

Rayson Miller went on to score five in the third, with a two-run double from Peyton Parmeter and a run-scoring single by Hayden Smith providing the other big blows.

“I was just trying to hit the ball somewhere,” Haefner said. “So wherever it came, I was just gonna hit it that way.”

Haefner allowed a leadoff double to Brennan Prather in the fourth. Prather eventually came around to score. Haefner fielded a grounder back to himself to end the fourth. After a walk and an out in the fifth, the righty’s day was done on the mound.

At the plate, Haefner still had a bit more fun to have. He led off the bottom of the fourth and worked the count to 2-2. Haefner recognized curveball but it broke down, out of the zone. The righty hitter lunged to swing, anyway, and he made contact off a short hop. It dribbled toward the third baseman but the speedy Haefner beat it out. He eventually came around to score his second run on an Andrew Sanchez single.

“I was just in all-swing mode at that point,” Haefner said, then added with a sheepish grin, “And yeah, it might’ve been off the ground.”

After each Rayson Miller game, Sapienza gives out ice cream coupons to players who their teammates nominate to receive them. Usually they’ll be for clutch hitting or special plays. One in the huddle joked that Haefner didn’t go five innings, so he shouldn’t receive one — they went to Hayden Smith, Sanchez and Parmeter instead.

But with the way Haefner competes, there’ll be plenty more opportunities to earn ice cream.

“He’s absolutely remarkable,” Sapienza said. “He speaks to what’s wonderful about baseball. You don’t have to be a genetic mutant to play and play well.”

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