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Baseball: Ex-assistant Deggs returns to face UL

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, February 18, 2016



Former UL assistant coach Matt Deggs returns to M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field on Friday as head coach of Sam Houston State’s team.(Photo: Advertiser file photo)




Some played for him. Others were recruited by him.

Plenty of UL baseball players are familiar with Matt Deggs, the former Ragin’ Cajuns assistant coach who is now head coach of the Sam Houston State club that will visit the Cajuns for a three-game series that opens the 2016 season beginning Friday night at M.L. “Tigue” Moore field.

Those who know Deggs well still feel his imprint on the UL program, even though he left more than a year-and-a-half ago for his first NCAA Division I head coaching job.

As the Cajuns’ hitting coach, including two full seasons in 2013 and 2014, he introduced his “Pack Mentality” system to a team that hit .263 with 18 home runs in 2012.

UL hit .317 with a national-high 74 homers in 2013, when it from out of the postseason one year earlier to an NCAA Regional. In 2014, the Cajuns again hit .317, this time with 68 homers in a season they made it to an NCAA Super Regional.

In 2015, with Deggs gone, they had 57 homers and again made it to a Super Regional, but the team batting average was down to .272.

“He’s the one who actually started to get that burning desire to compete in us, and attitude and all the stuff,” said UL infielder Brenn Conrad, who played under Deggs in 2013. “The coaches now are still ingraining it in us, and he started it. So I have to give him all the credit, to be honest with you.”

“He definitely instilled in a lot of guys that were here my freshman year (2013) the sense of ‘compete,’” Cajuns catcher Nick Thurman added. “He’s really good at that — getting in the box, fighting, throwing down, on the bump thinking you’re the best, in the box giving the pitcher no credit, all that stuff.”

Cajuns head coach Tony Robichaux had no idea Deggs would take the SHSU job when UL scheduled its season-opening series with the Bearkats.

So when the two coaches spoke earlier this month, they made it clear to each other — according to Robichaux — that they did not want the weekend to be about them.

“Sam Houston is not playing Tony Robichaux and UL is not playing Matt Deggs,” Robichaux said. “Sam Houston is playing UL, and we’re playing Sam Houston State.”

One of SHSU’s assistant coaches is Lance Harvell, who left his position as a volunteer assistant at UL to join Deggs in Huntsville.

And Deggs was replaced at UL by Jeremy Talbot, who was an assistant coach at Texas A&M for part of the time Deggs was an assistant coach there.

“He still has a big influence here,” Robichaux said of Deggs, who went 31-28 and reached the Southland Conference title game in his first season at SHSU. “He recruited some of these guys that are with us. Coach Harvell had relationships with some of these guys.

“It will be fun for us as coaches because we all know each other so good, but we’re not playing each other. … It’s really our players. That’s what it comes down to.”

One of those players recruited when Deggs and Harvell were around is Stefan Trosclair, an All-American infielder.

Another is Gunner Leger, UL’s 2015 Sun Belt Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year.

“He’s a great guy, one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around,” Leger said. “Obviously all the players who had him here love and adore him. They talk about his high intensity.”

Trosclair does not expects Friday night’s opener to be impacted by presence of Deggs, also a former Arkansas assistant who got the SHSU job after David Pierce left for Tulane.

“It’s just another game,” he said.

Others, however, seem to think otherwise — largely because of how Deggs, a Texas native who has strong recruiting ties in the state, has influenced players from both sides.

Deggs even has a couple of ex-Cajuns from Texas on his Sam Houston State roster: pitchers Riley Cooper, who was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 3.0 innings over five innings last season, and Ty Ewart, who was on the UL roster last year but did not play.

“We’ve tried to push (his) legacy onto these (Cajun) players now — it doesn’t matter who’s in the box or who’s in the mound, you’re gonna do your best and your gonna beat that guy,” Thurman said of he and others who played under Deggs at UL.

“Those guys (the Bearkats) are gonna play full-throttle,” Leger added. “They’re gonna be coming at you. They’re gonna try to create a little chaos. So it will be a high, high-intensity game with all the fans, and him being back.”

Even Robichaux — who credits Deggs for helping to lift UL by bringing in juco-college transfer recruits including Texans Caleb Adams, Dex Kjerstad and Matt Plitt — seems willing to concede that.

“They’re gonna try to mirror us,” Robichaux said of the Bearkats, “because some of what he brought here definitely is still with us.”

UL (42-23 in 2015) vs. SAM HOUSTON STATE (31-28 in 2015)

WHAT: Non-conference season-opener for both teams

WHERE: M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field (3,755)

WHEN: Three-game weekend series opens 6 p.m. Friday

RADIO: KPEL 96.5 FM with Scott Prather on Friday night

TV: None Friday night


Friday night: Sophomore LHP Gunner Leger (6-5, 2.99 ERA in 2015)

Saturday: Sophomore RHP Wyatt Marks (6-1, 3.24 ERA in 2015)

Sunday: Freshman RHP Nick Lee (no 2015 college stats)