Cajun arms getting it done as UL preps for road stretch
The UL baseball team heads onto the road, and into its final full week of non-conference play, feeling awfully good about its pitching situation.
Ragin’ Cajuns coach Matt Deggs moved Brandon Young into the weekend starting rotation last weekend, and the senior righty from Lumberton High and Howard College — both in Texas — responded with a gem.
Young (2-0, 1.47 ERA) went the distance in a 1-0 home win over Sam Houston State, striking out 11 and allowing just three hits in his 9.0 innings.
That and the work of Conor Angel (1-1, 1.50) and Connor Cooke (0-1, 5.19, two saves) in a 5-4 11-innings loss to SHSU last Friday night allows the 4-8 Cajuns to have a fresh Carter Robinson (0-1, 1.86) available to throw Tuesday night against Rice in Houston, where they play the first of five in a row on the road.
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After Tuesday, the Cajuns play three this weekend in Pensacola, Florida — against Samford on Friday, Michigan State on Saturday and Troy on Sunday — followed by a March 10 visit to McNeese.
“It was good see Brandon come out (Saturday),” Deggs said, “and kind of re-solidify who we are as a pitching, staff, and what we’re all about.”
Fifteen different Cajuns have pitched this season, including six — Young, Angel, Robinson, Will Moriarty, Brandon Talley and Brock Batty — with starts.
Five relievers without any starts — Cooke, Jacob Schultz, Jeff Wilson, Luke Cronan and Caleb Armstrong — each have at least two appearances.
Young, who pitched 54.1 innings including some weekend starting work last year, appreciated the promotion he got.
“It means a lot,” he said. “A lot of confidence, and I’m just glad to be back out there.”
Deggs said the decision to move up Young was based primarily on “stuff.”
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“Stuff and attack,” the Cajuns coach said. “He’s got great attack, great tempo, and he’s got really good stuff.
“When you flash a change you can knock guys off the fastball, and that’s what he did.”
Deggs never made a mound visit with Young on Saturday.
“I basically said, ‘I’ll see you after the game,’” he said with a laugh. “That was it.”
On Friday night UL got 5.0 innings from starter Angel and a solid 4.0 to close from Cooke, who walked three but allowed just two hits and one earned run while striking out nine.
“When Cooke throttles down, he’s actually really tough,” Deggs said. “You know, we had sat on him. Hadn’t had a lead. Sat on him for a week.”
But Deggs was going to Cooke regardless Friday, and he answered the call.
In a 7-5 win over the Bearkats on Sunday, Deggs liked how righty Moriarty “grinded” to handle damage-control innings and how righty reliever Jacob Schultz “slammed it” to close.
Related:UL baseball defeats Sam Houston State 7-5
Moriarty struck out nine in his 3.2 inning of work.
In between, dual position player/pitcher Talley went 4.0 innings with one hit and one run allowed and four strikeouts.
“That guy’s a first baseman that we asked to start pitching about six weeks ago,” Deggs said of the lefty, “and he’s pitching like a dude.”
Talley, fellow first baseman Colton Frank and starting centerfielder Brennan Breaux all got work in fall ball as Deggs and UL pitching coach B.J. Ryan held auditions to try to find some left-handed depth for his bullpen.
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Frank has one appearance this season — he faced one batter against Louisiana back in mid-February, and got him out — and Breaux has none.
But Talley has four, and now, with a 3.29 ERA over 13.2 innings, there could be more.
In fact, his effort on the mound Sunday prompts the possibility that Talley could even work his way into the starting rotation.
“I don’t know. I think he dictates that,” Deggs said when asked what Talley’s role will be going forward. “He’s acting like he wants the ball.
“Trust me, I like him piggy-backing off guys. But if he keeps pitching like a grown man like that, then he’s gonna force my hand.”
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Early in the season, Talley practiced mostly as a position player and worked just one day a week in the bullpen.
Originally signed by Louisiana Tech out of Princeton High in Texas, and recruited by UL as a hitter, he said he “hadn’t really pitched a whole bunch since, honestly, high school.”
“But I did a little bit of two-waying at junior college,” the Grayson (Texas) Community College product added, “so I’m familiar with it.”
His approach is to-the-point.
“I just pound the strike zone and let my defense make plays for me,” Talley said. “I don’t mind doing it, though.”
Deeper in the UL bullpen, Deggs said the Cajuns are “a little bit out” on a return for Austin Perrin as the lefty rehabs from a lat injury in his shoulder.
The junior had a team-high 10 starts last season.
But righty Jack Burk — 3-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 12 appearances including seven starts last year — has returned from a torn abductor muscle in the groin-ab area.
The fifth-year senior worked 1.0 inning in a Feb. 22 loss to Virginia, but he hasn’t pitched in a game since then.
Now, Deggs said, “It’s just a matter of building that arm to where it was.”
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RAGIN’ CAJUNS BASEBALL
UL (4-8) at Rice (2-8)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Reckling Park, Houston
RADIO: KPEL 1420 AM
UL PITCHING: RHP Carter Robinson (0-1, 1.86 ERA) is expected to start for the Cajuns
CAJUN LEADERS: C Sebastian Toro (.333, 4 RBI). C/1B/DH Julian Brock (.296)