James Leofanti, Aiming for Promise

Christopher Tremblay
“Pitching a no-hitter at any age is something that you’ll always remember, but to do it in your senior year after watching most of the previous year from the bench is unbelievable,” says Franklin Coach Zach Brown of his senior James Leofanti, who loves both pitching and playing third.
Issue Date: 
June, 2018
Article Body: 

After being put on the shelf for the majority of the Franklin High School baseball season last spring due to a shoulder injury, pitcher James Leofanti was making his first start of the 2018 season for the Panthers. Although the senior hurler did get one start at the end of last season, no one could have ever expected what was about to happen.
In only the third game of the season and Leofanti’s first trip to the mound, the senior tossed a 4-0 no-hitter against Milford on April 13th, striking out eight and walking only two, before his team charged the field to congratulate him after the final out.
“After getting the final out with a strikeout looking, it was just crazy,” the Panther pitcher said. “I really don’t remember much after that, except that I was trying not to get hurt with everyone jumping all over me. When I look at the video I still don’t really remember what was going on.”
Prior to the start of the game Leofanti just tried to stay calm and relaxed, so relaxed that the senior almost forget that he was taking the ball to start the third game of the season for the Panthers.
“Once game time rolled around, I was definitely ready to go, and after getting the first three outs bang, bang, bang, I knew that I was going to be a good game. I could feel it,” he said. “By the fourth inning, I knew that I was pitching well, and I actually thought to myself I’m pitching a no-hitter and then quickly told myself to shut-up and not think about it.”
While the Leofanti was tossing the no-hitter, his Milford counterpart was doing the same through four innings. The only difference was that Franklin had been able to push across two runs in the first inning without the benefit of a hit.
“James came out of the shoot throwing pitches. He had to, as their guy was no-hitting us at the same time,” Franklin Coach Zach Brown said. “Luckily, we were able to manufacture some runs in the first inning giving him the lead right out the gate. He had to continue to be sharp as one small mistake can ruin it all.”
As the game continued on, his teammates stayed away from him in the dugout, and no one mentioned what was going on in the field. As he entered the 7th and final inning already haven thrown 80 pitches, Leofanti was at his pitch count, but since he was throwing the no-hitter, Brown let him take the mound in the final inning.
“I was pretty close to my pitch count, and coach later told me that if I had given up one hit, he would have taken me out,” Leofanti said. “I was still feeling good, and the pressure wasn’t bothering me at all, even though the heart of their lineup was coming up.”
It’s rare to see a high school pitcher throw a no-hitter, especially after having a shoulder injury a year earlier that kept him sidelined.
“Pitching a no-hitter at any age is something that you’ll always remember,” said the Franklin Coach. “But to do it in your senior year after watching most of the previous year from the bench is unbelievable. I’m really happy for him after what he went through, he was determined to get back onto the field. Pitching is the strength of this team, and James has been an important part of that rotation.”
Like most kids, Little League baseball was on Leofanti’s radar at a young age, and by the fourth grade he realized that he want to be a pitcher. Unfortunately, during the fifth grade, he had to have Tommy John Surgery due to a genetic tight shoulder where his elbow eventually snapped. Last year his shoulder tightened up again and popped leaving him on the Panthers bench for 2 ½ weeks. According to Brown, Leofanti was slated as the team’s fourth starter and first arm out of the bullpen, but that was all before the injury.
As an incoming freshman for Franklin, Leofanti found himself on the freshman team briefly before being called up to the JV squad. During his sophomore year, he made the Varsity team, but due to some talented pitchers, he found himself coming out of the bullpen and seeing most of his time pitching, playing third and batting for the JV team.
“I’d much rather start, but we did have a good pitching staff so I wasn’t upset,” he said. As a starter, you know exactly when you’re pitching, but as a reliever, you never really know, you could get up and start warming up and never get the chance to come into the game.”
When he is not slated to be the team’s starting pitcher, Leofanti rotates at third base with Jake Noviello, another Panther pitcher. Although he loves playing third and calls the position his home, he also loves pitching. Hopefully his pitching will allow him to take the mound for Division 3 Western New England University in Springfield next spring. The school has won 9 conference championships, has 10 NCAA appearances and was last part of the College World Series in 2011.
“I’ve been keeping in touch with the coaches over there, and they told me to watch for the tryouts,” he said. “They seem very interested, and while it is not certain, it looks very good.”
If Western new England saw Leofanti’s performance against Milford, the Franklin pitcher just might find himself suited up for the Golden Bears next year.