Southeastern Louisiana’s Kyle Cedotal still can’t decide how to feel about the role he was given this season.
Part of the left-hander wishes he had made the transition from two-way player exclusively to pitcher sooner. The other part has to resist the urge to pick up a bat and step into the batter’s box.
“I probably like hitting more than anything,” Cedotal said before quickly changing his mind, “but there’s nothing like being in control when you’re pitching.”
Cedotal spent his first two seasons with Southeastern rotating between an every-day starter in the outfield and a primarily relief pitcher out of the bullpen. Last season, he started 54 games playing all three outfield positions and appeared in 11 games on the mound, starting six.
This season, with the departure of former Lions ace Andro Cutura, Southeastern coach Matt Riser pulled the Denham Springs native from his field duties to focus on pitching.
Despite the team’s lack of experience in the outfield heading into the season, Riser said pitching was a more pressing need for the Lions who were looking for a consistent arm along side Tate Scioneaux and Jake Johnson in the weekend rotation.
In 14 appearances this season, Cedotal has embraced the Sunday starting role and given Southeastern what Riser called one of the best rotations the program has seen in his eight seasons in Hammond.
Cedotal (9-2) quickly surpassed the expectations set on him last summer, finishing the regular season with a team-leading 1.86 ERA and tying for first with 90 strikeouts. He also leads the weekend starters with 19 earned runs allowed and keeping opponents’ batting average to .219.
“I’m having a pretty decent year for myself, and focusing just on pitching is really helping me with that,” Cedotal said. “When you’re worrying about your swing every day and then you’re worried about your pitching another day, it gets a little cluttered in your head.”
The rest of the conference obviously agrees with Cedotal’s assessment as he was named second-team All-Southland Conference in his first season as an exclusive pitcher.
Cedotal’s growth has been a particularly exciting process for pitching coach Daniel Latham, who was eager to get Cedotal under his tutelage full time.
Latham said Cedotal’s athleticism aided him the most during the transition. The junior’s speed reduces the threat of a bunt or stolen base when he’s on the rubber.
And like Riser, Latham credits Cedotal with rounding out the Lions’ deadly weekend rotation, calling him a “Friday guy throwing on Sunday.”
“We knew what his potential was on the mound, he just never spent a ton of time doing it and trying to perfect his craft,” Latham said. “He’s kind of realizing his potential on the mound, and you’re seeing it in his numbers. Guys do not want to face him.”
Of course, Cedotal never forgets his first true love of the game. He said he often jokes with Riser about jumping into the lineup during games or occasionally taking batting practice with the team.
In one of the rare opportunities Cedotal had to step to the plate this season, he smacked a three-run triple to left field during a loss to Tulane in February.
“I’d never turn down an at-bat,” Cedotal said. “I love every one of them.”