As the Arizona Wildcats get deeper into Pac-12 play, one name you’re going to hear more of is Randy Labaut.
The redshirt freshman has been placed in the Saturday starting role for this Arizona squad, something that the coaches hope will help the entire pitching staff moving forward.
“If he can fit into that type of role, it’s really going to make our team better,” head coach Jay Johnson said. “It’ll solidify some things on the back end of the game and it’ll make us stronger than we were early in the season. So it’s a big-time shot in the arm we got from him since we started Pac-12 play.”
When conference play started, Labaut’s workload drastically increased. 15 2⁄3 of his 20 total collegiate innings have come in his three Pac-12 appearances — two of them starts.
“I’m just focusing on attacking the zone right away,” Labaut explained of his recent success. “Just overall I know the team’s having my back and with the help of coaches I feel really confident every time I go out there.”
“It brings a lot of confidence to our team,” JJ Matijevic added about having a more solidified Saturday starter in place. “Seeing them do that and being successful it just brings confidence to us knowing that they can go out there and compete for us.”
In Saturday’s outing against the USC Trojans, Labaut gave up an RBI triple in the first inning, but that was the only hit USC got against him all day.
“I was just trying to get settled the first inning and I kind of fell behind the first couple hitters and I just got back to my routine,” Labaut said. “I just kind of settled in after that. I just couldn’t find my zone the first couple hitters.”
“It feels pretty good to be honest,” he added through a chuckle about only allowing one hit in a Pac-12 game. “I just give the credit to the coaches and the team behind me helped tremendously getting some double plays.”
Labaut came to Arizona as a two-way guy, but this offseason, he was converted into a pitcher primarily. Having the hitting background certainly gives him a different perspective than most when he takes the mound.
“Sometimes I place myself as a hitter,” he explained. “I’m kinda like where should I attack the zone more.”
The initial conversation about giving up the position player side of things was one that was interesting for a young player like Labaut.
“(Coach Johnson) just kind of talked to me and he said ‘Hey I trust you and you can be a big impact on this team’ and I just go out there to help the team out,” Labaut remembered. “It was a big conversation, but I felt like I was ready enough to take that position.”
“I don’t (have a preference),” he added about if he likes pitching or hitting better. “I just go out there and have fun with both sides.”
Certainly if he’s winning Saturday games on a regular basis for this team, a lot of people are going to be having fun out there, not just Labaut.