Small town kid, big time player
Coming from a town of just over 1,200 residents with a high school enrollment of just over 300 students and playing for the 61st smallest classified baseball team out of 335 programs, having a player sign to play college baseball should be an enormous feat.
But for the second time in just over five years the proud Cornersville Bulldog baseball program has seen its second pitcher not just join a major Division I baseball squad, but emerge as a heavy contributor.
Like former Bulldog and Mississippi State ace Lucas Laster, 2015 Cornersville graduate David Looney used two brilliant seasons at Columbia State Community College as a springboard to a scholarship at Morehead State.
Following a storied Bulldog career that saw Looney finish with a 26-7 record over his final three seasons that included a school record 19 strikeouts in a game and winning the schools second ever state tournament game with a 3-1 victory over Huntingdon his senior year, the Marshall County lefty chose to play at Columbia State despite holding an offer from Central Florida.
"Coming out of high school I had narrowed it down to two offers which were Columbia State and Walter State Community College," Looney, a two-time district MVP, recalled. "I chose Columbia because I felt the team and the atmosphere was the right fit for myself.”
“After spending two years at Columbia State, Coach (Mike) Corn had mentioned several schools that were interested in me joining their pitching staff but I took my first visit to Morehead State."
"A couple days went by after this visit and plenty of discussions between myself and my parents and together with the help of my family and the Lord I decided Morehead was the right fit for me so I committed and after that I did not receive any more offers," Looney continued. "Several schools had contacted me throughout my sophomore fall, but Morehead was the school that caught my attention."
Located in northeast Kentucky with a population of around 7,500 residents, Morehead is the quintessential college town.
Located halfway between Lexington, Kentucky and Huntingdon, West Virginia, Morehead State is set along the foothills of the Daniel Boone National Forest, holds an enrollment of over 10,500 students and was ranked by U.S. News and World Report's Best Colleges as one of the top regional colleges in the country.
The Eagles are a charter member of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) and have won seven OVC championships since the formation of the historic conference.
"When I came on my visit to Morehead it felt like I had drove five and a half hours just to end up in a town like Cornersville," Looney said. "The town of Morehead is really small, but the people of the town support Morehead and its athletes in every sport."
"Coming from Cornersville and then going to Columbia State I was always blessed with great people that made me feel at home no matter what," Looney added. "This feeling that I got from my first visit along with meeting the amazing coaching staff here at Morehead, it made the decision a no-brainer to me.”
The Eagles have posted winning records in each of the past four seasons before Looney joined the program, including a 2015 campaign that saw the Eagles finish with a 38-22 record along with wins over Tennessee and Ohio State before winning the OVC Tournament and drawing Louisville in the NCAA Tournament.
That success continued through the next two seasons and into the 2018 campaign with the Eagles holding a 13-9 record and a 4-2 conference mark, good for a second place tie in the 11-team conference.
The Eagles recently completed a three-game sweep over Belmont, who then beat number five ranked Vanderbilt just four days later.
Looney has been a big part of that success.
The former two-time Tennessee all-state pitcher has pitched in eight games for the Eagles with an 0-2 record, but has given up just 14 hits and struck out 12 batters during 8.2 innings of work.
Looney made his Morehead State debut during the third game of the season, pitching the final two innings while giving up just one hit, no runs and striking out four of nine batters faced.
Looney also matched a season-high two innings in a win over Belmont and followed that performance with his first career save at Morehead State against Alabama State the next game.
The Eagles brought out Looney for the final out in a 9-4 win over Alabama State the next day.
Looney attributed a lot of his early success at Morehead for time well spent at Columbia State.
"I believe coach Mike Corn helped prepare me at Columbia State really well for the D1 level of pitching by putting me in games where I struggled and instead of pulling me he would leave me in so I could learn from my mistakes and make myself better," Looney said. "Coach Corn always expected the best out of me every outing, plus some and with those high standards given I knew each and every day I had to work my tail of if I wanted to pitch for the Chargers."
"Many drills, situations, and game scenarios that I was in at Columbia State helped me prepare to get to where I am now."
But like any player at a new program, Looney has encountered obstacles to overcome in the transition to the DI level of play.
"A few of the challenges involved in the transfer from junior college to DI would be the age differences as one for sure," Looney, who pitched two complete games and a combined no-hitter for CSCC as a sophomore, explained. "Guys in junior college are all in their freshman or sophomore season of college baseball, but at the DI level players on every team are more mature since there are guys that are seniors and juniors and have been playing college ball for three or four years."
"This makes pitching at the DI level a little more challenging because pitches have to be of better quality and located better in order to get outs," Looney added. "Another challenge since I am getting older I have to lean toward a major and take classes based on that major as to where in junior college the classes I took were just general basic classes."
There have also been highlights to add to the already storied career of the former Bulldog legend, such as starting at eighth-ranked Louisville in just the fourth appearance of the year, for instance.
"I came in this fall coming back off an elbow injury which was tough coming to new team not being able to do much for the first part of the fall but with a great pitching coach and a very supportive team I am back healthy and playing this spring," Looney stated. "I have had the privilege to throw in a few games so far this spring, but honestly big highlights is watching this team win. Our team is bonded like a family and each day we go to battle on the field as brothers."
"It is so relieving to know each guy supports me and I can support every single one of them," Looney continued. "We get the chance to play some big baseball teams this season such as Louisville, Kentucky, and Tennessee. A big highlight would be just being blessed by the Lord to have the opportunity to play Division I baseball with some really good players and enjoy the time I get each day."
Being a successful student athlete from such a small town can sometimes be overwhelming for a young person but Looney takes the time to come back during the off season to coach and takes the chance to speak and offer advice with younger players with similar ambition.
"Being from a small town like Cornersville definitely makes the road to college baseball harder than it is for those living in big towns with a lot of different options and a lot more guys with tons of talent," Looney offered. "But I am a huge believer in the saying you are the writer of your own dreams and if you want those dreams to come true you have to put in the time and work."
"Thankfully I was gifted with two wonderful parents that I wouldn’t trade for the world and they both have spent countless hours and many sleepless nights watching me practice and play ball through the years and without them nothing that I have accomplished would be possible," Looney continued. "Along with my parents several people in this town have followed me and supported me no matter what and that’s what can keep a kid like myself driving forward in such a small town. I knew since I was four years old I wanted to play college baseball and with hard work, countless hours of training, and practice that dream came true."
While many kids from small towns across the country dream of the day they will be able to leave and move on to larger stages, Looney has realized that the tiny town in which he grew has become a large part of who he is to this day.
"I never dreamed that leaving a small town like Cornersville would be so hard but man do I miss it every day," Looney admitted. "I had the opportunity to play for a coach in my years of high school that taught me more life lessons than he will ever know and I want to thank him for that.”
"While I was in high school I got to play for coach (Gerard) Randolph at a time where he battled some health issues but never let it affect the time he spent to make us better men and for that I will forever be thankful," Looney said. "Coach Randolph, along with coach (Ben) Putnam and several other citizens in Cornersville showed me through the years just how amazing it can be to live in a small town." "Knowing that I represent the wonderful people of my small town is something I carry with me every day and I cannot thank all the people of Cornersville enough for such a fabulous experience I had growing up in this town."
And for a young man with so much love for the place in which he grew up, Looney has to know that the small southern Marshall County town has just as much love for the athlete representing the name of Cornersville so well.