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Baseball: How Ragin' Cajuns pitcher Austin Perrin rehabbed his mysterious injury during trying times

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 30, 2021zzz

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Pitching in a scrimmage against Mississippi State in the fall of 2019, Ragin’ Cajuns pitcher Austin Perrin sensed something wrong with his throwing arm.

It was obvious, yet also mysterious.

“When I got hurt, I couldn’t lift my arm,” said Perrin, a junior left-hander from Hahnville High. “It was weird. Couldn’t really figure out what it was.”

In time, the problem was diagnosed.

The 2019 weekend starter had a partial tear in his lat, the broad back muscle that extends from the top of the hip to lower vertebrae in the mid-back and up to the top of bone in the upper arm,  according to MLB.com’s injury glossary.

“The lat is tricky,” Cajuns coach Matt Deggs said. “It can be misdiagnosed at times. I’ve seen that before … at other places.”

Addressing the issue wasn't simple because Perrin’s rehab came just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“So I really was on my own, in my parents’ garage, working out there with whatever we had,” he said. “We were all throwing against trees, just finding a way to do something."

“I kind of rehabbed for a little while, started throwing, still didn’t feel right,” he added. “Over the Christmas break I tried throwing again; it didn’t feel right. So then we went back to the doctor and kind of reevaluated it.”

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Once the root of the pain was known, Perrin received a platelet-rich plasma injection to promote healing of the muscle.

“Then I threw all over quarantine, just kind of took it slow,” he said. “That was a good time for me to just kind of restart my process, and when we came back in the fall I was ready to go.”

Lefty impressing the Cajuns

It’s showing now.

Perrin is 1-1 with a career-low 2.49 ERA in nine appearances, including three starts.

Perrin went 6" innings in a 5-3 win Sunday over Coastal Carolina, an outing that could lead to another start when the Cajuns open a three-game series Thursday at UL-Monroe.

For six innings against the Chanticleers, he put on a clinic.

“His off-speed pitches – his change-up in particular – it was just devastating to them,” Deggs said.

“The icing on the cake was he had enough fastball, and fastball in, to his glove versus the righties to keep them off-balance, so even when they did want to get a swing off he was up on them, and that’s when you would see the flyballs the other way. Then he was able to go right back to the change-up.”

Teammates were impressed knowing how Perrin, who missed all of UL’s COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, struggled early this year.

“Playing injured and not having your best stuff is always hard on the confidence, but coming back this year he’s had some strong outings,” first baseman Ben Fitzgerald said. “He’s continuing to build confidence and I think it’s a big piece for us for the rest of the season.”

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Perrin had plenty of doubts

Perrin didn’t know how he’d fare.

“Being able to figure out what it was and attack it in therapy and get back out there – I was just happy with that, to be able to throw again,” he said.

“I rehabbed for five months last year, so I really had no clue what was gonna happen and or what my job was gonna be.”

Neither did Deggs.

Then Perrin threw five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and one hit allowed in a mid-March visit to McNeese.

“That was huge,” he said. “I had been struggling coming out the pen. Julian (Brock) caught me that night, and I just was talking with him the whole time, and he was keeping me pumped up and pushing me through.”

Now Deggs talks up Perrin, praising him not only for his pitching but also things like “being here at 7 in the morning to fix the mound, and fix the visitor’s mound.”

“There’s just a lot that goes into the makeup of that kid,” Deggs said. “He’s just very, very tenacious. He’s gotten knocked down, and gotten back up.”

That far exceeds what Perrin imagined this time last year.

“Just being able to pitch is beyond my expectations,” he said.

It really was a tough climb back, as one of those trees Perrin faced during the pandemic can attest.

“I put a couple dents in it,” Perrin said.