There were many special aspects of UL’s 7-0 victory over Coastal Carolina on Monday at Russo Park.
None, though, were as cool to see as the start turned in by senior right-hander Jack Burk.
In only his third outing of the season, Burk pitched more like a weekend starter with five shutout innings to move his record to 2-0. He attributed his readiness and mentality to late UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux, who died in 2019 after nearly 25 years with the Cajuns.
It was almost a carbon copy of the previous day's game played between UL and Coastal Carolina at Russo Park.
“Being a guy that played under Robe for so long, he always preached to us that our only job was to give our team a chance to win,” Burk said. “So that was the only thing on my mind.
“I wasn’t surprised. Pitching is weird, man. You can go out there and think you have your best stuff and get hit around, and you can go out there thinking you don’t have your best stuff and pitch well.”
Unlike the first three of the weekend, the game against Coastal (14-9 overall) was not a Sun Belt Conference game. The Cajuns (14-11) will open a Sun Belt series at UL-Monroe on Thursday heading into Easter weekend.
Burk only allowed one hit, and it didn’t come until two outs in the fifth with a Billy Underwood double.
“I actually had a hard time finding my rhythm and timing on my fastball, so we wanted sliders and changeups early in the count to help me get ahead,” Burk said. “We were able to finish a few guys with sliders and changeups.”
The right-hander from New Orleans walked two and struck out a career-high eight batters.
“I knew he had the ability to go deep,” UL coach Matt Deggs said. “I thought he was a good matchup. If you can spin it and pull it against them, it’s a good matchup if you can locate it. I just told him, ‘Let’s go one at a time here.’ The first could have gotten away from him, but he did a good job settling in, and he just got a little bit better and a little bit better.
“He was barking a little bit today. He didn’t have his best stuff, but just through guile and grit and moxie to stay out there and keep them way off balance.”
Will Moriarty helped finish off the Chanticleers with two shutout innings, while Peyton Havard and David Christie each got an inning for work.
As a staff, UL pitching combined for 14 strikeouts and only allowed one hit.
It was the first time Coastal has been shut out since UL did it back on May 3, 2019.
“I didn’t think yesterday could get any better, and today wound up being pretty dang good itself,” Deggs said.
There were several other interesting features in Monday’s win for the Cajuns. One was using sacrifice bunts, which played a role in runs in the second and third innings.
“We were just working to build some house money and get some power of contribution into some guys,” Deggs said. “There’s a lot of confidence-builders in being able to sacrifice for your teammates. That’s part of our game, and it has the ability to get guys going at times. It also allows us to score. I thought we did a great job today executing.”
Those sacrifice helped to maximize Coastal Carolina issuing plenty of free passes. Three hit batters turned into runs, and two others were forced in by walks to help the Cajuns beat the Chanticleers for the third time in the four-game series.
Talk about just what the doctor ordered.
The hitting star of the game was freshman Carson Roccaforte at 4 for 5 with three RBIs. The freshman right fielder delivered RBI singles in the first, third and eighth innings.
“Today’s his birthday,” Deggs said of Roccaforte. “What, he had four knocks? He’s starting to heat back up, so watch out.”
In the seventh, UL was walked twice with the bases loaded for more insurance. It was a long weekend for Coastal’s pitching staff. The team spent the entire trip battling the spread of a stomach virus — 14 players total, according to a team spokesman, at different times and mostly impacting the pitching staff.
“That’s a good ball club over there in Coastal,” Deggs said. “We caught them at the right time. They’ve got some injuries and they’ve got some kids that weren’t feeling well. But regardless of that, that’s a really good team, and they’re going to make some noise in this league for sure.”