The only certainty going into the Baton Rouge super regional for UL-Lafayette was a true freshman would start Saturday’s opener at LSU.
Ragin’ Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux on Friday tabbed right-hander Wyatt Marks for the 7 p.m. opener and then lefty Gunner Leger on Sunday. Leger had been the Friday starter in weekend series since mid-season.
“Gunner has thrown a lot,” Robichaux said. “We asked him to go on three days’ rest after 106 pitches in the conference tournament, and he threw another 97 pitches. Then we got into the rainout in Houston (in the regional) that backed his start up. He was going to get five days if we went out with him in game one. We think he needs the sixth day of rest. He’s at 106 innings as a true freshman, and those freshmen are the future.”
Marks (6-1, 3.32) made starts in the last eight weekend series and started Monday’s regional final against Rice, going 41?3 innings and allowing four hits and two earned runs.
Marks, who got the word late Friday morning, has pitched in Alex Box Stadium before, but the atmosphere was slightly different.
“It was a couple of times in summer ball,” Marks said. “There were only maybe 20 people here.”
The beards are back
UL-Lafayette’s 2014 team, which went 58-10 and was ranked atop the national polls late in the year, was distinctive for its beards. They’re not as long and scraggly this year, but once again the facial hair is a staple in the Cajuns dugout.
“We kinda wanted to bring something back, the spirit of last year,” said senior outfielder Dylan Butler, who also started on last year’s squad. “We had something going for us last year, and right now everything’s working for us this year.”
“Midway, when we got (Stefan) Trosclair back on the field and the freshman pitchers started to gain experience and momentum, we told them, if you want to do it from this point on, that’s fine,” Robichaux said of the beard growth. “Just make sure everything’s neatly done, and no craziness or stupidness.”
That was a reference to some of last year’s beard length and girth. Robichaux told last year’s team before the season they could keep the beards until they lost two straight games, which they never did until being eliminated by Ole Miss in the Lafayette super regional.
By that time, All-American second baseman Jace Conrad, now in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, looked more like a Viking or a caveman than a college player.
Brenn Conrad, who platoons at third base and hits high in the lineup against right-handed pitching, is a question mark with a hamstring injury.
Robichaux said Conrad would likely be limited to pinch-hitting duties Saturday. That leaves third base to junior Joe Robbins, who has started 17 times at third base and 23 times in center field.