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Baseball: Farquhar calm as can be heading into start

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Most sophomore starting pitchers, especially those going into their first NCAA game and getting the ball for a regional opener, would be a walking case of nerves. Think butterflies the size of those wild boars roaming the Southern swamps.

Ask Danny Farquhar if he’s nervous, and you get this big grin.

"Nope," said Farquhar, UL’s starter for today’s College Station Regional opener against Ohio State. "Not me."

The sophomore righthander then bounded away, batting off the cap of a teammate as he heads to the Cajuns’ bus after practice, not a care in the world.

"I let Danny be Danny," said Cajun coach Tony Robichaux, whose serious demeanor reflects the importance of his team’s first NCAA appearance in two seasons. "He’s got a unique mind-set. He’s not worried a lot about who is opponent is, and he’s not big about getting worried about the impact of the situation. He just goes out and pitches."

Their personalities may be polar opposites, but Robichaux isn’t going to argue with Farquhar’s success. And if his starting pitcher is a little oblivious to his weekend surroundings, so much the better.

In large part due to Farquhar’s May efforts, the Cajuns are one of the nation’s strongest two-seeds – and weren’t far from a one – heading into today’s 1 p.m. regional opener. If he does what he’s done the last four weekends, the Cajuns also have a chance to still be playing after this weekend.

The UL squad can go deeper into a pitching staff than anyone else at this regional, deeper than Ohio State, LeMoyne and host Texas A&M. But the most important pitching game in any regional is the first one, especially if a starter can be effective while eating up innings.

In his last four starts – two Fridays, a Thursday and a Wednesday since moving to the head of the rotation – Farquhar has thrown almost 32 innings and has struck out 41 batters. He’s never allowed more than two earned runs in any of those four starts.

His record’s gone from 3-3 to 6-3, and it should be 7-3 except that UL forgot how to score in the first eight innings of last week’s Sun Belt Tournament opener against South Alabama.

By the time UL scored enough to take a 3-2 extra-inning win, Farquhar had worked his way out of jam after jam in a 112-pitch effort.

The recent starts mean Farquhar’s come full circle. A projected starter in his natural freshman year, he moved to the bullpen halfway through last season and wound up as UL’s closer with four saves and a team-leading 2.17 ERA. This season, he came on in relief in his first 22 outings through mid-April before a spot start against nationally-ranked Arizona State.

Four weeks ago, when Buddy Glass developed stiffness in his neck and shoulder, Farquhar took over the Friday starting role at UL Monroe. That night, he scattered six hits and fanned 11 in pacing a 5-2 victory, and followed that with 12 strikeouts against Arkansas-Little Rock and 13 against New Orleans.

Robichaux said most relievers couldn’t step in and start like that, and most starters couldn’t go to the bullpen and be effective.

"Some guys have that dead-red closer mind and it’s hard to switch." Robichaux said. "But he has that unique mentality. That’s probably the reason he’s been able to do that."

He, and all the Cajuns, need that mentality to last for a few more games.