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Baseball: Harmon shuts down Northwestern State

Dan McDonald

University of Louisiana baseball coach Tony Robichaux watched Greg Harmon pitch a lot of games in high school, while watching his own son Justin play at Notre Dame High in Crowley.
Robichaux eventually signed Harmon as a pitcher, and the freshman right-hander showed why on Tuesday.

Harmon, in his first collegiate start, checked Northwestern State on four hits and struck out nine through seven innings, leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 3-1 victory over the Demons at NSU’s Brown-Stroud Field in Natchitoches.

Harmon allowed only a fourth-inning unearned run to the Demons (14-16), who had taken two earlier wins over the Cajuns this season. He pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning and stranded a runner a third with one out and two in scoring position with two out in the sixth.
“Coach said to just get out there, relax, throw strikes and let the defense work for me,” Harmon said. “We had a couple of big plays from the defense that helped me out in big situations, and that’s always a big thing.”

The Cajuns will ride a season-high four-game win streak into today’s rescheduled 3 p.m. contest at La. Tech, a game postponed from the opening weekend of the season. UL will go with another freshman, righthander Danny Farquhar, in today’s game against a Bulldog team coached by former Cajun top assistant Wade Simoneaux.

“I really like our freshman arms right now,” Robichaux said after Harmon’s gem. “Coach (John) Szefc went out and got some quality arms and told me I was going to have fun coaching them.”

The Cajuns (16-11) got all the runs Harmon needed in the third inning off Demon starter Dereck Cloeren (1-3). Devon Bourque led off the inning with a triple in the left-field gap and John McCarthy followed with another triple down the first-base line. McCarthy scored on Jonathan Lucroy’s one-out sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.

Northwestern, which took a 7-5 win over UL last Tuesday at Moore Field, got its only run in the fourth inning when Marty Dewees reached on an error by Cajun first baseman Jefferies Tatford and came around to score on Miles Durham’s following double. But Durham was thrown out at third base and Harmon (1-0) struck out the next two batters to preserve the lead.

“Changing speeds was the biggest thing tonight,” Harmon said. “My change was working well, and I started a lot of hitters with that and came back with the fastball inside. It crossed them up pretty much. I was able to stick to our plan to do that.”

“He’s been a tough kid all his life,” Robichaux said of Harmon. “He’s got linebacker mentality. He threw a great game and dominated a good team on the road.”

UL got an insurance run in the sixth off NSU reliever Heath Hennigan when Tatford drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Devery Van De Keere’s double down the right-field line.

The Cajuns left 13 runners on base, seven of them in the final four innings, but relief performances by Greg Wilborn and Chad Beck made the two-run margin stand up. Wilborn got two strikeouts before a single and a ground-ball out in the eighth, and Beck picked up his third save with two strikeouts and a final fly-ball out after Jimmy Heard’s double in the ninth.

“This was big,” Harmon said. “We’re on a roll right now after sweeping the weekend and we wanted to keep a winning streak going. I’m happy I was able to help out.”

Originally published April 5, 2006