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Baseball: Thurman guts it ou for Cajuns in sweep

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 23, 2015



UL reliever Dylan Moore (40) and catcher Nick Thurman (6) both played crucial roles in keeping the Ragin’ Cajuns alive in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Saturday in Troy, Ala.(Photo: Courtesy Sun Belt Conference)



UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux pointed to the chair in which Ragin’ Cajuns catcher Nick Thurman had just been seated.

It didn’t take Thurman being there for Robichaux to make his point, loud and clear.

"That guy right there just does an outstanding job of handling pitchers," he said of the junior from Belle Chasse. "That’s the bottom line. He’s good."

Thurman sure was Saturday, when he caught two games — 18 innings — as third-seeded UL beat Texas State 3-0 and 6-2 to claw out of the loser’s bracket and win a spot in Sunday’s 1 p.m. Sun Belt Conference title game against No. 1 seed South Alabama.

Thurman first worked the combined four-hit shutout of true freshman starter Wyatt Marks and true freshman closer Dylan Moore, then worked a combined eight-hitter thrown by Will Bacon with Moore again in relief.

"He’s just been so valuable to our pitching staff," said Robichaux, who also credited volunteer assistant pitching coach Daniel Freeman.

Thurman didn’t just do it on the receiving end Saturday, though.

He also stepped to the plate — 1-for-18 in the tourney at the time — and delivered a two-run double that made it 5-2 in the eighth inning of the do-or-die second game.

"Being 1-for-18 before that is really frustrating," Thurman said. "(But) Coach Robe told me (Friday) … he talked to his coaching staff, and, ‘(We) want you to catch (both games); if you hit, it’s a bonus.’

"So that kind of made me take a step back and take a lot of pressure off myself. The moment came up, and I was able to just relax and put a good swing on the ball."

Robichaux and assistants debated whether to even start Thurman in both games.

And after catching five tourney games in four straight days now, Thurman did admit his knees "are gonna be a little bit sore" Sunday.

"We actually weren’t all together on it," Robichaux said. "But we talked it out in a civilized manner about how we wanted to go out, and the big thing was him. My final vote was he’s too important to our pitching staff."

Being told to not fret over his bat really was big for Thurman.

"You can tell he genuinely wasn’t worried about his hitting," Robichaux said, "and guess what happened: He gets a big hit. It’s amazing."

His effort behind the plate, though, was what mattered most for Cajun pitchers.

"Having a catcher like Thurman helps us out a lot," Moore said. "He sees the hitters.

"Especially for someone like me who is sitting in the dugout and not seeing exactly what is thrown every pitch … that really helps us out throughout the game, because by the time I come in he already knows the hitters.

"He knows exactly what they’re looking for, and what to pitch," Moore added. "It helps us a lot."