First-year Acadiana baseball coach Matt McCullough named Class 5A Coach of the Year _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRAD KEMP Lafayette pitcher Bo Hardin

LAFAYETTE — Bo Hardin went from his all-business face to breaking out a smile when the subject about the fireman came up.

Hardin, a Lafayette High starting pitcher, has scouting reports on opposing hitters and their tendencies at the plate. That attention to detail dissolves a bit when the discussion turns to the music that blares out at home baseball games when he strides to the plate.

Lil’ Wayne’s “Fireman” has been the background sound last season and this year. It is not a brand new flavor-of-the-month choice. The song was released in 2005. What is the reason for that track resonating with Hardin? Loyalty.

“I grew up a very big LSU fan, and the first player I ever really liked at LSU was (current UNO coach) Blake Dean,” Hardin said. “His walk-up song was ‘Fireman.’ I told myself if I get to a point when I have a walk-up song, that’s going to be it.”

The ability to focus on details and coordinate that with physical movement is something that Lafayette coach Sam Taulli said reminds him of a pitcher with a pretty powerful résumé.

“He is the closest thing I have seen in high school to Greg Maddux,” Taulli said.

“Bo can move his fingers and change his finger pressure and make the ball move one way or the other. He can read hitters as well as the coaches. He will find a hole in a swing, and he will throw to that area all day long.”

That plan has enabled Hardin to hold his own against the rest of a rugged District 3-5A that includes the likes of rival Acadiana and defending Class 5A state champion Barbe.

Hardin’s most recent start resulted in a two-hitter that propelled the Lions to a 5-0 victory at Barbe on Saturday. That raised Hardin’s record to 7-0 with a 0.61 ERA in 45.2 innings pitched.

That efficiency and mound demeanor is not a new development for the junior who handles second base duties on many days when he doesn’t pitch.

“He was like that when he set foot on campus and came out here the very first time,” Taulli said. “When he came out to tryouts, we had no idea who he was. After tryouts were over, we realized we had something special. He made varsity as a freshman and was actually our No. 2 starter as a freshman.”

Despite having an early feel for pitching and a variety of options on the mound, Hardin also heard about the things he needed to improve.

“Ever since I was 12-years-old, I heard, ‘Bo doesn’t have that extra miles-per-hour on his fastball,” Hardin said.

So that became one mission. Another goal includes an academic discipline where Hardin would eventually help develop the craft used in space missions.

“I want to study aerospace engineering,” Hardin said. “I got a 34 on the ACT, so my college options are really wide right now.”

There is also an appreciation for Hardin’s ability to focus on the narrow day-to-day tasks that are required to get through the grind of a season.

“He has really worked hard to get stronger and get his velocity up,” Taulli said. “We just finished a game, and he’s doing (light) flat-ground work on his mechanics to get ready for his next start.”

Then there is the plan that goes through Hardin’s head when people in the crowd hear a few seconds worth of “Fireman.”

The plan can include scouting details, but there are also basic cardinal rules that Hardin keeps in mind related to his own experiences on the mound. He is hitting .362 overall and .647 in district play.

“I know what a pitcher wants to do, so I try to eliminate holes in my swing, eliminate weaknesses and not get behind in the count,” Hardin said.

“You want to eliminate those nights when you are getting dominated.”