LAFAYETTE — The first time freshman right-hander Wyatt Marks took the mound to start a game for the Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team this season, the game got a little too fast, and it got away from him.
On Sunday at Texas State, Marks dictated the pace.
The St. Thomas More product was phenomenal over 5.2 innings, striking out a career-high 11 and setting the tone in a 13-3, series-clinching victory.
“Wyatt had Friday night stuff,” coach Tony Robichaux said Monday. “We knew Wyatt would be good; he showed huge flashes of it coming out of the bullpen. There’s a difference between hoping you’re going to get somebody out and dominating your opponent. He dominated his opponent. That’s the level you want pitching to get to. That’s what the really good ones do.”
Marks’ lights-out performance in the start, which he made in place of an injured Greg Milhorn, earned him another outing in the weekend rotation this week against Texas-Arlington. As is usually the case, it wasn’t just the results that caught Robichaux’s attention, but the way Marks achieved them.
“His command of both sides of the plate was really good,” Robichaux said. “He had everything — up, down, in, out. Whatever you called, he hit it. If we can get that on Sunday, it’ll surely help us.”
Milhorn was the only pitcher in the Cajuns’ weekend rotation with experience in that role heading into the season, but Marks’ development has lessened the impact of a potentially catastrophic injury.
With the series on the line, Marks turned in his best performance of the year.
“This time, the game surely wasn’t too fast for him,” Robichaux said. “He pitched against a team that had some momentum from the night before. He pitched against a team with the wind blowing dead out, knowing that every fly ball was going to leave the ballpark — and yet none of that bothered him.”
When asked for the key to his team’s resurgence in the second half of the season — the Cajuns are 8-2 in their past 10 games — Robichaux did not hesitate.
“(Stefan) Trosclair,” he said. “If we could’ve put that guy out there Day One, we wouldn’t be where we’re at right now. He’s a difference-maker.”
Trosclair spent the early portion of the season recovering from a torn labrum he suffered while playing summer ball in Alaska, but the LSU-Eunice transfer smacked three home runs in the Texas State series, improving his team-leading total to nine.
After hitting one home run in his first 21 games, Trosclair has gone on a binge lately, hitting eight in his past 12 contests. In those games, the Cajuns are 8-4.
Clement stepping up
Trosclair isn’t the only player who has had a role in stabilizing the Cajuns’ lineup. Outfielder Kyle Clement also hit a pair of home runs in the Texas State series, and he has been on a tear since he became a regular in the starting lineup.
Clement has started in eight straight games, but he has managed to do quite a bit in that short period of time.
He became the first Cajuns player to hit for the cycle in 25 years, and he has raised his batting average 60 points while adding some pop to the bottom third of the lineup.
The added experience has helped, Robichaux said, but Clement also isn’t missing many opportunities.
“The one thing Clement’s been able to do a good job of lately is,” Robichaux said, “when he’s getting his pitch, he’s barreling the ball up.”