Nothing seems to faze Evan Guillory.
Not starting on the mound in his second college baseball game, and doing it on the road. Not getting Louisiana-Lafayette’s starting nod for Friday night’s home opener in front of a raucous M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field crowd.
Not even a shaving cream-pie to the face after Thursday’s practice, 24 hours before he’ll toe the rubber when the Ragin’ Cajuns host Stony Brook.
Guillory brushed away the Barbasol, a grin on his face after his upperclassmen teammates surprised him with UL-Lafayette’s annual ritual, and a couple of minutes later it was business as usual.
“The key with him, the key with anybody that has that chance to be special,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said, “is he’s a guy that thinks and acts and reacts above his age level. He’s a guy that can play above his chronological age.”
The Jennings native showed that during the opening weekend, when the right-hander turned in the team’s most solid pitching performance against Texas-San Antonio. Guillory scattered five hits, didn’t allow an earned run and struck out seven with no walks in what became an 8-2 Cajuns win.
“This team helps me relax,” said Guillory, a Class 3A All-State pick for Jennings last spring. “I’m a young guy, but all the older guys make you feel like a family. They help you get on the mound and just relax and let your team play behind you.”
It’s that comfort level that led Robichaux to tab the 6-foot-3 freshman for Friday’s first home game. He held back on pulling that string in the opening road series, but if the Cajuns boss wasn’t convinced earlier, he was after Saturday’s performance.
“No hesitation at all,” Robichaux said on his selection. “He’s dominated all fall, pitched well. He has the stuff to keep the score down and he has the stuff to put you to bed with. He’s not a pitch-to-contact guy where we have to play perfect defense on Friday night, and that’s good because usually you have a guy on the other side that’s going to be stingy.
“He doesn’t throw and hope. He doesn’t pitch scared.”
Guillory had plenty reason to be scared in his Saturday appearance. After UTSA leadoff hitter Kevin Markham singled up the middle in the first inning, number two hitter Matt Hilston lined a pitch right at the freshman. Guillory was able to turn and take the pitch off his back.
“It hit right below my shoulder,” Guillory said. “It was like, this might not be as easy as it looks. But after that the infield came to me and coach Robe came to me and settled me down.”
He proceeded to allow only three hits over the next five innings, taking advantage of a biting slider to keep an aggressive UTSA lineup off balance. He struck out the side in the second inning, and retired four of the last five batters he faced in the fourth and fifth.
“I didn’t think I was going to be nervous,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous going into the game. I was more nervous when I got to the mound to actually pitch to batters. Coach Robe does a really good job in the fall preparing us for how the spring was going to be.”
Those fall practices weren’t the first time that Robichaux saw Guillory up close, after he’d thrown in regional fall leagues.
“We told him we’re not recruiting you because you’re good, there’s a lot of good players out there,” Robichaux said. “We’re recruiting you because we think you have the ability to get better.”
Robichaux also recruited the Jennings native for his pitch repertoire, one that includes that finishing slider. Six of his seven strikeouts at UTSA were swinging third strikes, and most were going after that pitch.
“Sliders you don’t see a lot,” Robichaux said. “You see a lot of people with curve balls but you don’t see a lot of guys with sliders and he’s got a very good one. He attacked hitters. If you want to be a good pitcher, you have to threaten the hitter before he threatens you.”
Guillory also hasn’t fallen into the trap that many pitchers face when making the high school-to-college transition.
“Every hitter in college was their team’s four-hole hitter in high school,” Guillory said. “They’re all aggressive and they all think they’re better than you. You have to get ahead and stay ahead. You can’t throw it by anybody in college ... two-and-oh fastballs get hit pretty hard.”
Friday’s atmosphere at the “Tigue” should be electric, with the Cajuns at home for the first time since last year’s NCAA super regional that capped a stellar 58-10 season. A lot of Jennings High fans will be in attendance to see the former Bulldog standout.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I came to a lot of games last year and watched. I know there’s going to be a lot of energy in the stadium. I can’t wait.”