Baseball: Szefc - Robichaux would have been pleased with UL play + photo gallery
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Feb. 21, 2020
Virginia Tech baseball coach John Szefc started his day visiting the recently unveiled statue of late Ragin’ Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux — the man he worked for as a UL assistant from 2003-08 — that stands outside of M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
He ended it watching the team Robichaux led for the past 25 seasons beat his Hokies 2-0 Friday night behind the strong shutout pitching of starter Conor Angel and the work of relievers Jacob Schultz and Connor Cooke.
Angel left to a loud ovation with one out and a man on first with the now 2-4 Cajuns up two runs in the eighth inning.
Virginia Tech's coach John Szefc, a former UL assistant, wore a "36" Tony Robichaux cap at home plate before Friday night's 2-0 Ragin' Cajuns win over the Hokies. (Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
“He threw a lot more strikes (than expected), got them through seven,” said Szefc, who was coaching against the Cajuns for the first time since leaving UL.
“That’s what you want your starter to do in any game, certainly on a Friday night when he’s kind of representing your whole program.
“So he did a really good job. That would be a typical Robichaux pitching performance right there,” added Szefc, who wore a Robichaux "36" when he took his starting lineup to home plate Friday. “Tip your cap to B.J. Ryan for getting that guy ready and working on what he did.”
Robichaux, who doubled as UL’s pitching coach, died last July, 10 days after suffering a heart attack.
Ryan, a two-time MLB All-Star who played mostly for the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, is the Cajuns’ volunteer pitching coach now.
UL starter Conor Angel went 7.1 innings in a 2-0 win over Virginia Tech on Friday night at The Tigue. (Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
“I think Tony would be pretty (pleased) with that, obviously,” Szefc said.
“Anytime you throw a shutout, and you’re a pitching coach, you feel pretty good about that.”
With his sinker working and his defense doing its job, Angel fanned seven, allowed just three hits, walked two and threw 102 pitches over 7.1 cold-night innings.
“It got to me a little bit,” said Angel, a native Canadian who transferred to UL from Northwest Florida State College, said of the chilly weather that had fans in the stands bundled to the max.
“But my experience pitching in Canada, in Montreal, definitely helped, for sure.”
Angel attacked the plate, and Cajuns coach Matt Deggs — Robichaux’s successor — loved what he saw.
“Connor learned from his last start,” Deggs said of Angel, UL’s starter in a one-run Opening Night loss to Southeastern Louisiana last weekend.
“He was more efficient and got us all the way into the eighth. I thought he might have a shot at finishing.”
Instead, after Angel was lifted, Virginia Tech loaded the bases.
But Schultz worked his way out of the one-out jam by striking out Brennan Reback and getting Carson Taylor to fly out to right, and — with a man on — Cooke took care of the last two outs in the ninth.
Virginia Tech starter Chris Gerard went 7.0 innings himself, striking out 11 and walking just one while allowing only three hits and two unearned runs.
UL’s two came on a pair of Hokie errors in the infield and an RBI single up the middle by Gavin Bourgeois that scored Sebastian Toro.
Toro reached on a bunt that resulted in Virginia Tech’s second error of the inning.
“As Robe would say, ‘You don’t get an out on a bunt, you’re gonna probably lose,’ ” Szefc said. “He was right again.”
BACK IN LAFAYETTE
Szefc came to UL from Marist, where he was head coach from 1996-2003 — a team he took to four NCAA Regionals, including one hosted by the Cajuns when they went to the 2000 College World Series.
Before taking over at Virginia Tech in 2018, he was Maryland’s head coach from 2013-17.
Szefc had scheduled the Terrapins to come to The Tigue, which they did last season, but by then he was on to his new job, denying him a chance to see Robichaux before he passed.
The Hokies coach scheduled Virginia Tech to come to town, and to host the Cajuns next year, when he first took over there.
“It’s just good to be back here. It’s a good place,” he said. “I spent a lot of really good time in my life here; had two of my kids here.”
Tremaine Spears returned after missing Wednesday’s loss to Tulane due to a catchy virus. He was UL's designated hitter. … Usual starting centerfielder Brennan Breaux was out after getting hurt running the bases against Tulane, so Alex Hannie started instead. “He’s just tight,” Deggs said of Breaux. “I’m not gonna risk that with a premium centerfielder in February.” … Deggs said Hannie got “bopped on the hand” and would be evaluated. … Righty Will Moriarty is scheduled to start for UL on Saturday.
UL and ACC-member Virginia Tech meet at 2 p.m. in the middle outing of their three-game non-conference weekend series.
RAGIN’ CAJUNS BASEBALL
UL (2-4) vs. Virginia Tech (1-3)
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park
RADIO: KPEL 96.5 FM
PITCHING: RHP Will Moriarty (0-1, 4.15 ERA) is expected to start for UL