DENHAM SPRINGS – Brock Batty said the incredulous looks came from a variety of directions.
Just why was Batty, dressed in regular clothes, imitating the same pitching motion he’s used throughout his baseball career – including his first season while at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette?
Simply a force of habit he says, where for the second straight summer Batty was shut down by the Ragin’ Cajuns coaching staff as they believed rest and relaxation was in his best interest.
That didn’t stop the 6-foot-1, 198-pound left-hander from Denham Springs from mimicking his pitching mechanics and more importantly, repeating his pitching motion and delivery in his every day life.
“People looked at me stupid, but it’s just a habit of doing my pitching mechanics all the time,” Batty said. “It’s nice to relax and your body gets to recover. I wish I was throwing right now.”
Batty said he endured far greater workloads while at Denham Springs High School, but admitted the 46.2 innings he logged for the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2018 – the sixth-highest among on the staff and second among relief pitchers - certainly took its toll.
“I threw 60-70 innings in high school and my arm was never as tired as it was through this year,” Batty said. “It just wears on you a lot more on you than you think it would.”
Batty transitioned from staff ace at Denham Springs, where he was a two-time Class 5A All-State selection and honorable mention Perfect Game All-American, to predominately a relief role, leading UL-Lafayette in appearances with 23.
He also had one career start against Southern Mississippi that resulted in a victory for the Cajuns.
Batty (2-1 record, 1 save) gained decisions in four of his first six appearances and went on to finish with 37 strikeouts and 27 walks with an inflated 6.17 earned run average, the latter the result of midseason arm injury.
“I learned you can’t try and overpower everybody,” Batty said. “I don’t throw very hard and everybody talks about pitchability. A lot of people in high school blow that off, but if there were one thing I could go back and tell myself when I was younger is just relax and make your pitches. If you execute, you’ll be successful.”
UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux didn’t wait long to throw Batty into the deep end of the pitching pool.
Three of the first five opponents Batty faced were World Series participants Texas and Mississippi State and fellow SEC member Kentucky.
Two straight days after warming up in the bullpen, Batty made his college debut against Texas under adverse circumstances when starter Hogan Harris was forced from a scoreless game in the third inning with an oblique strain.
“I was on the bench with my hoodie on and Hogan’s cruising,” Batty said. “I turned to talk to somebody and Hogan’s walking off the field. I just heard them say my name. I looked around and said, ‘Oh my God’. I just started freaking out. I started stretching, looking for someone to come and play catch with me.”
One pitch on the mound at revered Disch-Falk Field immediately put Batty at ease and his performance reflected that. He pitched a season-high six innings, allowed two hits with three walks and a strikeout and his teammates snapped a 1-1 tie with a run in the 7th for a 2-1 victory.
“It was an incredible feeling my first outing to go and throw like that against a dynasty like Texas,” Batty said “I grew up watching the College World Series. That was pretty cool. I wasn’t intimidated. I was more anxious and excited to see how it was going to be. When I get into big games like that I don’t get scared. It makes me just want to go even harder.”
Batty felt his performance also resonated with his teammates and coaches.
“After that, I knew they had confidence in me,” he said. “That’s what set me up to have the year that I had and throw the amount that I did.”
For the most part Batty had successfully navigated his way through the first month of his career, a span that included road or neutral site appearances against Texas, Mississippi State, Kentucky, LSU with his lone start coming at Southern Mississippi – a game in which the Cajuns were victorious.
Batty had answered the call every two to five days, jogging in from the bullpen fully prepared to carry out his role whether there was anybody on base or not.
He did so without fully disclosing to his coaches a growing discomfort in his arm, something that became painfully obvious midway through the season when his ERA jumped from 1.80 on March 10th to 5.02 by April 18th.
“I had bicep tendonitis and I didn’t really speak up about it like I should have,” he said. “I just thought it was something I could throw through and when I was doing that, I was trying to overcorrect and compensate for that and I was lost my control. That was the worst part of the year for me.
“Once I started feeling something in my shoulder, my body was getting fatigued,” he said. “I let my mechanics get sloppy. My stuff was still there, it was just my control. It’s a game of outs and I made innings difficult on myself with higher pitch counts. Coach always tells me I don’t have to be John Wayne when I tell him I feel good.”
Batty said he didn’t throw for about a week and slowly worked his way over a two-week span back into his previous role out of the bullpen, facing eventual Sun Belt Conference tournament champion Coastal Carolina on May 6.
A week later with the Cajuns chasing a SBC Western Division crown, Batty returned to form with a solid performance of 3.1 innings against Texas State, allowing one run on five hits and struck out three in a key victory.
It was an outing that went a long way in re-establishing Batty’s confidence and help set the stage for next season where he could factor in as a starter or reliever.
“I’ve endured enough adversity to know that I was going to get it back,” Batty said. “I’ve got enough confidence in my ability. I knew it would take one outing to get back on my game and that’s what it did. I was ready to go again.
“Coach Robe respects his veterans a lot, the guys that have done things the right way,” Batty said. “He told me that I’m going to have every shot to do whatever I want next year. I’d love to be a starter, but if us winning games means I’m a reliever until I graduate, that’s fine. Wherever they put me, I just want to win.”