HOUSTON — UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux has his rotation set for the regional tournament this weekend — after some deliberaton.
He wasn’t exactly sure who would start the first or second games at the Houston regional, but eventually settled on freshman Wyatt Marks for Friday’s game against Rice.
Evan Guillory, another freshman, will start the Cajuns’ second game.
Junior right-hander Will Bacon will be the first pitcher out of the bullpen against Rice, Robichaux said. Senior right-hander Greg Milhorn will be the first man up in in the Cajuns’ second game.
The theory is relatively simple: With high temperatures, and because Cougar Field as the same artificial turf as M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field, Robichaux wants his more experienced pitchers on the mound as the pressure rises with the heat.
“We love those two guys where they’re at,” Robichaux said. “We think a lot of these games are going to be won because of the heat — I don’t know how long the starters will go, so I really believe the games are going to be won from the fifth (inning) on. It’ll give us older arms up on the mound.”
If the Cajuns don’t win Friday and throw Guillory in an elimination game Saturday, staff ace Gunner Leger may not pitch at all in the regional after throwing nearly 200 pitches in last week’s Sun Belt Conference tournament.
Robichaux said he spoke with Leger about that possibility, maintaining that Leger’s health is the most important thing to consider this weekend.
“He understands where we are,” Robichaux said. “You just can’t hurt a good quality arm like that. He did something for us to help win that tournament, but we don’t need to come in here and re-do any of that at this point in time.”
For freshmen like Guillory and Marks, this weekend will mark their first experience with the NCAA tournament.
That’s why players like Dylan Butler and Blake Trahan are letting them know what to expect, because they remember the first time they went to the NCAAs.
“My first regional, I was nervous,” said Butler, who first went two years ago as a sophomore. “I didn’t expect it. But that was our whole team, our whole vibe going into the tournament. I don’t feel that this year, I don’t feel it with these guys. They’re ready to go. I love it, and I can’t wait to get there.”
Trahan was a freshman on that team when the Cajuns traveled to Baton Rouge and made it to the regional championship against LSU.
“The first regional, you definitely have the jitters,” Trahan said. “You’ve just got to settle down and play champion baseball. The whole team has to step up and do their part. ... You’ve just got to calm down and handle the moment. These guys did that throughout the (conference) tournament, and I have no doubt they’ll do it in the regional.”
Robichaux sounded reverent when referring to the coach in the opposing dugout Friday.
“You’re playing against a legend over there in that dugout,” Robichaux said. “They’re going to be so well-coached.”
Rice coach Wayne Graham, who turned 79 earlier this season, is one of the winningest coaches in college baseball history, with 1,074 wins in 23 seasons at Rice. Graham also won five NJCAA World Series titles and won nearly 700 games while coaching San Jacinto Junior College for 11 years.