NITRO, W.Va. — Nitro High School’s Levi Kelly, the freshman pitcher with a 90-plus fastball, ended his college recruitment early by saying he’s “100-percent committed” to LSU on Thursday.
Wowed by the football-like atmosphere during a series in Baton Rouge this past weekend, the right-hander said he had been recruited by the Tigers for four months. Things took off even more after LSU watched him pitch live last week.
“They came to see me throw and Coach told me they would offer me if I made it down there,” Kelly said. “They offered me Saturday morning, we went to the game, and I told him after the game that I was going to commit.”
Kelly, who stands 6-foot-3 at 15 years old and already holds multiple Division I offers, recently was rated the No. 1 right-handed pitcher in the class of 2018. He said South Carolina was his second choice, with West Virginia among a third group of programs he considered.
“I was waiting on a place where I fell in love,” Kelly said. “I fell in love with LSU and I love everything about it. I felt like it was the right place for me and I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else. It’s a really good decision for me and I’m 100-percent committed to LSU. It’s going to be a great experience and it’s a great fit.
“It came down to two schools when I flew down to Baton Rouge. I really liked and enjoyed South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, West Virginia and Marshall. It was a really fun process. But I fell in love with LSU.”
On his visit to Baton Rouge, the Tigers swept a three-game series over Missouri in front of a packed house.
“I went to two games and at both games there were 13,000 (people),” Kelly said. “It’s a great atmosphere. There were people tailgating six hours before the game like it was a football game. It was awesome.”
During his freshman season with Nitro, Kelly entered the week with a 4-1 record, 1.71 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings.
“I’ve learned a lot this year,” Kelly said. “I’ve learned how to pitch at a better level, not necessarily throw, but pitch. Before, against kids my age, I could just pump out a fastball every pitch and blow it by guys. But now, against better teams, I have to pitch. You can’t lose focus – throwing 86-88 and up to 90 mph, after the third time around it turns into batting practice because they’ve seen it before.”
Improving his feel on how to mix up his pitches will come over time—and he certainly has plenty of that—before he eventually makes his way to the next level.
“Now that I have the college decision over with and committed to LSU, it’s all about getting better now,” Kelly said. “You can’t go into an SEC school and not be prepared, or you won’t make it and you’ll get embarrassed. I’m not an SEC pitcher right now and I need to be one by the time I step in there.”
There’s also the potential of the MLB draft, which figures to be an option for one of the state’s most highly regarded prospects in years.
“I try not to look too far ahead. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I think there is a reason for everything,” he said. “It’s definitely my goal to be a major league player. If it’s right, then I’m going to go. But LSU is amazing and you’re taken care of.
“You’re not treated like a bum down there. They charter flights everywhere. It will be a great experience. It would be hard to walk away from LSU to go with the draft, but if the draft is right, then I’m going to go.”
But for now, it’s one decision at a time, and that’s a college commitment to LSU.