BATON ROUGE, La. -- Even when Sam Houston State junior left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson isn’t completely on his game, he’s still pretty good.
The talented veteran pitcher, ranked as the No. 196 overall prospect for the upcoming MLB draft, had the ultimate chore in front of him Friday night to kick off the Baton Rouge Regional -- he had to find a way to shut down Louisiana-Lafayette.
Though Dickson is an elite arm, shutting down the Ragin ‘Cajuns isn’t something that has been accomplished often this season. The Cajuns have some serious power throughout their lineup, and they entered the contest with a .323 batting average.
So, interestingly, Dickson walked two batters in the game and hit four more. Yet, he still managed to put together a solid start, allowing two runs on three hits in 5 2/3 innings of work, while also somehow being efficient with 96 pitches, 57 of them for strikes, on the way to a 4-2 victory for the Bearkats, setting up a Saturday night showdown with top-seeded LSU.
“The thing with Cody is that he’s such a worker and preparer,” Sam Houston State David Pierce said. “His breaking ball got away from him a little bit today, but he stuck with his fastball and was able to split his pitches up at some points. His arm just works really well.
“For him to go into the sixth inning and still be under 100 pitches,” Pierce added. That’s pretty good.”
Dickson’s command certainly lacked against the Cajuns, but his elite stuff consistently showed as he was able to induce a lot of easy ground balls and fly outs, making the ULL hitters stay on top of the ball instead of having the ability to square things up, and perhaps run Dickson out of the game earlier than expected.
“We just couldn’t get on top of the ball all-night long,” ULL leadoff hitter Dex Kjerstad said. “I would say he was effectively wild there for a while.”
From a stuff standpoint, Dickson showed the velocity that scouts often like to see. He was consistently 90-92 with the fastball, touching a 93 on the radar gun, while his changeup was the usual 81-84 and curveball sat in the upper-70s.
“It certainly wasn’t the greatest outing I’ve ever had, but at the end of the night, we picked up a win,” Dickson said. “I just went out there and spotted my fastball as well as possible. I really needed that pitch tonight, but I really couldn’t have done all of this without my defense.”
While Dickson led the charge against the Cajuns, junior left-handed reliever Alan Scott was very impressive. Scott, very serious in the post-game presser, exuding the attitude you want out of a shutdown reliever, was terrific out of the bullpen, allowing just one hit in 3 1/3 shutout innings of work. His performance was nothing new to the Bearkats, as he entered the contest with an 0.68 ERA in 18 appearances and 26 2/3 innings of work.
“When I first came in , it was pretty much the same old for me. I’ve really defined myself as a guy who can handle lefties pretty well,” Scott said. “Picking up Cody was no big deal. I made a commitment to myself to let my two-seam fastball and sinker work, and that’s all I did tonight."
While Sam Houston's pitching staff with Dickson and Scott leading the charge was the story of the game, the offense was much more productive than four total runs would indicate. The Bearkats had nine hits in the game and left nine on base.
Furthermore, keep an eye on outfielder Luke Plucheck and catcher Anthony Azar the rest of the weekend. We noted Plucheck's raw power in our Baton Rouge Regional preview, and he showed it against the Ragin' Cajuns with a solo home run to left field. Meanwhile, Azar has always had issues staying healthy, but he's healthy now, and had a huge night with two hits, one a double, his 21st of the season. Carter Burgess also showed good pop and finished the night with two hits.
For the Ragin' Cajuns, a reasonable gamble didn't pay off against the Bearkats. ULL head coach Tony Robichaux saved ace right-handed pitcher Austin Robichaux for a potential Saturday matchup with LSU, a move that any coach in this situation likely would have made lacking a deep starting rotation. The good news for ULL is that Robichaux is available for tomorrow's elimination game against Jackson State. The bad news? The Cajuns will have to work through the loser's bracket without Robichaux the rest of the weekend, that's assuming they can take care of Jackson State.
As for SHSU, some scouts in the State of Texas, who have seen Sam Houston State, Texas A&M, Rice and plenty of others inside the state many times throughout the season, have maintained all along Sam Houston State was the best team in Texas.
SHSU certainly put on a good show Friday night against ULL with Dickson fighting his way through some command issues.
Now comes the ultimate trump card, beating LSU on Saturday.