home sitesearch sitemap contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Baseball: Cajuns pitcher gives up scholarship for the good of the team

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, March 28, 2014

* * * * * * * * * *


Western Kentucky at No. 1 UL

WHAT: Three-game Sun Belt Conference weekend series.
WHERE: M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
WHEN: 6 tonight, 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday.
RECORDS: WKU 13-12, 3-3; UL 24-2, 6-0.
RADIO: KPEL 96.5 FM with Jay Walker.
TV: KLAF TV on Saturday only with Don Allen and Kevin Cantrelle.

Tonight: UL junior RHP Austin Robichaux (4-1, 1.76 ERA) vs. senior RHP Justin Hageman (1-1, 2.12 ERA)
Saturday: UL junior RHP Carson Baranik (5-0, 1.38 ERA) vs. senior LHP Austin Clay (3-1, 3.82 ERA)
Sunday: UL senor LHP Cody Boutte vs. (3-0, 4.37 ERA) vs. senior RHP Jake Thompson (2-1, 3.45 ERA)
ABOUT THE CAJUNS: UL has won 14 straight, including Wednesday’s 17-3 non-conference win over SWAC-member Southern. … The Ragin’ Cajuns have swept both UL Monroe and Georgia State in Sun Belt series. … CF Seth Harrison is hitting a team-high .351 with six doubles, three triples, five homers, 22 RBI and 24 runs scored. … UL leads the all-time series 42-26, with all but one of the games – a win – coming under current coach Tony Robichaux.
ABOUT THE OPPONENT: Western Kentucky has dropped three straight and four of its last five, including Wednesday’s 5-3 home loss to No. 10 Louisville, the final two outings of a Sun Belt home series with Texas State and a 10-3 loss at No. 17 Kentucky. … C Ryan Messex is hitting a team-high .361. … This is the Hilltoppers’ final visit to The Tigue before they leave the Sun Belt for Conference USA later this year

Griffitt: All I knew was I had to get better and help out the team 

When it became apparent that a baffling shoulder injury was going to cost UL pitcher Chris Griffitt his would-be senior season in 2013, a plan was hatched.

Griffitt had to take a medical redshirt, but he and the Ragin’ Cajuns agreed he’d return for one more try in 2014.

The decision, however, came with a twist.

Uncertain if he’d be able to throw at all again this year, and figuring if would make more sense if the Cajuns had one more signee who was fit to contribute, Griffitt sacrificed his scholarship.

He chose to play this year as what amounts to a walk-on, not among the 27 players on UL’s roster receiving athletic-based financial assistance.

“They gave us the scholarship back to go pick up another player to try to make this team as good as we could,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said.

“I think that was a selfless act on his part, his parents’ part,” Robichaux added. “I think that is why this team is where it’s at. You’ve got guys that are willing to give up to go up.”

Going into this weekend’s three-game Sun Belt Conference series against Western Kentucky that gets under way tonight at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field, UL is ranked No. 1 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball.

The 24-2 Cajuns have won 14 straight, including midweek wins this week over Southern and Northwestern State and last weekend’s sweep of their three-game Sun Belt series with Georgia State.

Griffitt, after a delayed start to his personal season, has a hand in it, and an arm, and, perhaps most importantly, a solid-enough shoulder.

A weekend starter for the Cajuns back in 2012, Griffitt – now limited exclusively to relief work – has one save and a 0.00 ERA in 5.0 innings over three appearances so far this season.

“It feels good knowing I can help my team out in any way I can,” he said. “You know, my job is to come out here and give our team the best chance to win.

“It was difficult,” added Griffitt, a product of Ridgewood Prep in Metairie, near New Orleans. “But all I knew was I had to get better and help out the team, and just try to overcome my … injury.”


It really has been a rough road, though.

Last season, the Cajuns had trouble pinpointing just what was wrong with Griffitt’s shoulder.

In 29 seasons of coaching college baseball, Robichaux – who doubles as UL’s pitching coach – had never seen anything like it.

“We couldn’t put our finger on it,” he said. “MRI was inconclusive; there was nothing to go fix.”

So rather than undergo surgery, Griffitt went the rehab route.

Robichaux suspects the injury could be either an impingement or bone-on-bone pain because cartilage within the joint has simply worn away.

With that in mind, physical therapy was key.

“He’s worked really hard with (trainer) Brian (Davis) on rehab and p.t. and everything else,” Robichaux said, “to try to strengthen everything around it.”

“He’s been working his butt off a lot,” Cajuns outfielder/pitcher Ryan Wilson added. “Not being able to pitch for a whole year – that takes a toll on your body. So he’s come out and done a really good job for us, being ready.”


As the start of this season approached, it appeared Griffitt would be good to go.

“Even in the fall,” Cajuns catcher Michael Strentz said, “he would pitch against us, and he was really hard to hit.”

But then there was a setback for the lefty who relies largely on his fastball and a slider.

“It was a gradual thing,” Strentz said. “He had it at first, then he lost it for a little while. Then, whenever we started throwing him again in games, he got that confidence back, and now he’s pretty much unhittable.

“Now, when he goes in the game, he just goes in there and does what he has to do, and he doesn’t really think about anything except throwing the ball.”

Griffitt didn’t make his season debut until a 14-1 win on March 15 at UL Monroe, where – 18 games into the year – he threw 1.1 perfect innings with three strikeouts.

Four nights later, in a 7-1 win at Nicholls State, he threw one more inning, this time striking out one and giving up one hit but again not allowing a run.

And last Sunday, in his longest stint of 2014 so far, Griffitt allowed no hits and no runs while striking out five over the last 2.2 innings of a 5-3 win over Georgia State.

The Cajuns had other relievers ready to go to protect their perilous lead, but Griffitt would up going longer than even he thought he would.

“I figured it would be a batter here, an inning there,” he said of the early stages of his comeback. “But I knew my arm could withstand the stretch.”

Precisely as Robichaux intended, actually.

“We’ve been building his tolerance up in bullpens; we’ve been building his tolerance up along the way,” he said.

“We didn’t think he’d ever start again,” the Cajun coach added. “But we thought if we could get him out of the bullpen, he’s such a guy that can overmatch and overtake an inning – because he just believes and trusts in everything he throws up there.”

That confidence, however, does apparently wane now and then.

But it shouldn’t, Strentz suggests.

“His ball has a lot of movement – which he needs to get in his head, because he really doesn’t believe in it much,” the Cajun catcher said. “But once he sees that he can strike a few people out, he’s good.”

Really good, as was the case when last weekend he earned the save against Georgia State.

“Everything he throws up there is cutting, sinking, moving,” Robichaux said. “It’s hard to flush him up, and square him up.

“Now, having that weapon coming out of our bullpen – man, he can wipe out somebody’s best lefty. And when they pinch-hit against him, he’s not that vulnerable to righties. So, he becomes a huge weapon out of the pen.”

With a stash of relievers from Matt Plitt to Matt Hicks to Ben Carter to Reagan Bazar and others, that’s a good thing for a club that has College World Series aspirations.


The whole key for the Cajuns, though, was getting Griffitt from the pen to the mound.

For a while, no matter how hard he toiled, Griffitt’s velocity was so low that it was hard to differentiate between the speed of his fastball and that of his breaking ball.

And that’s not a good thing.

“But now,” Robichaus said, “he’s got enough velocity to make his off-speed good.”

The true test came when Griffitt had to face UL’s only hitters.

It’s a group that led the nation in home runs a season ago.

“I remember Mike Strentz saying something in the dugout (during the ULM series) to somebody: ‘If he’ll do what he does to us, they’re gonna have trouble’ ” Robichaux said. “And every time he’s been out, that’s what he’s been done.”

“He has a really good attitude about everything,” Wilson added. “He just kept working, kept his head down.”

Griffitt, who transferred to UL after two seasons at Bossier Parish Community College, would have it no other way.

He just needed time to heal, time to strengthen and time to play catch-up.

“We worked a lot of mental toughness and everything,” Griffitt said. “I’ve always that mentally strong attitude, to just get out there and get after somebody.”

On scholarship, or not.