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Baseball: UL pitcher Young makes most of time before MLB Draft

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 9, 2020

In mid-March, the college baseball world was put on hold.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic stopped sports on all levels throughout the country.

But Ragin’ Cajuns pitcher Brandon Young, a possible pick in this week’s Major League Baseball Draft and the No. 5 prospect from the Sun Belt Conference, according to D1Baseball.com, did not get the full memo.

“I never really took a break,” said Young, a righty from Lumberton High in Texas who came to UL after two seasons at Howard (Texas) College.

“I’ve been throwing with minor-leaguers over here in my area. We’ve been throwing bullpens, and (I’m) still throwing to live hitters sometimes.”

Sure, Young — a potential selection, along with UL shortstop Hayden Cantrelle, fellow Cajuns pitcher Conor Angel and incoming pitcher Hayden Durke of North Vermilion High, in the two-day, five-round draft that opens Wednesday and concludes Thursday — was heartbroken when the 2020 season came to a crashing halt.

Related: UL MLB Draft prospect Hayden Cantrelle shares love for the game with his father

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UL pitcher Brandon Young (facing camera), a 2020 MLB Draft prospect, is congratulated after beating Sam Houston State 1-0 in a complete game last February.Buy Photo

UL pitcher Brandon Young (facing camera), a 2020 MLB Draft prospect, is congratulated after beating Sam Houston State 1-0 in a complete game last February. (Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)

The pro scouts were onto him.

“(He’s) a guy that really was bursting onto the scene, not just regionally but nationally,” UL coach Matt Deggs said.

Young had a 1-0 complete game shutout victory over Sam Houston State in late February.

UL was coming off its third win in a row, a 7-0 victory at McNeese in Lake Charles, and on March 13 the senior was slated to move into the coveted Friday night slot for the 8-9 Cajuns’ Sun Belt-opening weekend series against Coastal Carolina on M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.

His stuff was working, and Young — 3-5 with a 4.80 and two saves over 54.1 inning as a junior for UL in 2019 — could not wait to show it off against the 2016 College World Series-champion Chanticleers.

“I was feeling good,” he said. “I’m not gonna lie.

“You know, my first start (of the season) against Southeastern (Louisiana) — (I was) finally getting back out there, working through some rust, finally throwing some pitches. Then after that I just got a lot more confident. Mental game was there.

“I had four pitches I could throw for strikes,” added Young, who finished the 2020 season 3-0 over four appearances with a 1.09 ERA — best on the team for anyone with more than 2.1 innings pitched — and a team-leading 37 strikeouts over a team-high 24.2 innings. “Yeah, man, I was feeling good. And so were we as a team. We started playing some good baseball.”

More: Young shuts out Sam Houston State

But the coronavirus crisis got in his way, the Cajuns’ way and everyone’s way.

Put in perspective, though, Young knows he is in no position to complain.

Nor he is inclined to.

“It was tough,” Young said.

“But, honestly, it’s just a bad time for the world. I mean, you’ve got a pandemic going on, canceling everything.

“But I didn’t take it too bad,” he added. “I wasn’t too upset about it. It happened.”

What Young did instead was take his time off from the games that were to have been played to improve his own game.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pounder refined what was working, tinkered with what wasn’t and added new variations to his best weapons in a well-stocked arsenal.

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“It’s not the real deal,” Young said of what happened when The Tigue was closed and Cajuns were forced to go their separate ways, “but that’s the time where I can work on some stuff.

“I’ve been working on some pitches,” he added during a recent telephone interview. “Redefined my breaking balls. Working on a cutter now that’s pretty decent.”

And when he isn’t throwing, Young — who did not allow an earned run in his final 19.1 innings of the 2020 season, and who finished the year ranked seventh on the NCAA career leaders list in strikeouts per nine innings at 12.42 — waits and wonders what will happen next.

Because the season was so short, the NCAA has granted and all spring sport athletes an extra season of eligibility.

So he has some leverage when it comes to draft negotiations and terms of any potential signing bonus offer, and could return to UL for another season if things do not go his way in the draft.

But that’s all for another day.

Until it arrives, all Young can do is accept the fact he is not the only one whose routine was altered in the wake of a pandemic.

“It’s just kind of a weird time for everybody, I guess,” Young said.

“But … I’ve made the most of it.”

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