Midweek college baseball games don’t often feature frontline pitchers.
Tuesday, Grambling got a frontline pitching outing, and feasted on six of Louisiana-Monroe’s mound crew in a 15-3 romp on Wilbert Ellis Field at R.W.E. Jones Park. James Cooper’s club won for the sixth time in eight games.
The Tigers (6-14) cracked three homers, two by Joe Gunn among their 12 hits, and took advantage of three errors by ULM.
The G-Men jumped to a 4-0 lead on Gunn’s first boundary blast, a two-run shot in the bottom of the second, and the Tigers added a Keylon Mack solo shot in the third.
It turned into a rout in the fourth, as Grambling rolled up four runs for a commanding 9-0 advantage over a Warhawks team that has wins over two ranked foes (Ole Miss, Oklahoma State) and recently battled ranked Louisiana Tech to a 9-7 margin in Ruston.
Gunn’s second homer, also with one on, made it 14-1 in the sixth.
Antoine Valerio (2-1) struck out five while working the first seven innings, grounding the Warharks (10-11). He didn’t pitch in the weekend non-conference home series against Tennessee-Martin, but after his best outing in six appearances this season and second straight effective outing in extended innings, could be a factor this weekend.
The Tigers return to Southwestern Athletic Conference play Friday (3 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m.) and Easter Sunday (1 p.m.) at UAPB. Grambling is 3-3 in the SWAC and UAPB is 2-5 (2-13 overall).
FOOTBALL: Grambling’s football team is shut down by COVID-19 issues, restricted from any workouts until at best, about April 10. But the Tigers’ program is not at a standstill.
Broderick Fobbs and his coaching staff have used their idle time productively in recruiting. Tuesday, the Tigers offered scholarships to 10 standouts from Lake Charles College Prep, which has rapidly emerged as a LHSAA Class 3A powerhouse, which lost an epic 43-42 battle last December with Union Parish in the state semifinals.
Meanwhile, on campus, a lot of Tiger players have picked up their cleats to work out on their own, trying to maintain conditioning as the G-Men hope to finish their truncated spring season in Shreveport on April 17 against Southern, test results permitting. Practice is slated to resume at the outset of game week, said Fobbs.
Grambling football personnel are tested Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Fobbs said there’ve been no additional positive tests since results in the middle of last week showed COVID-19 infections for a receiver, a running back and a linebacker. But nobody’s relaxing.
“The worst thing you can do is think you’re out of the woods on this, and then other people, coaches and staff test positive. We’re doing all we can do to limit a spread,” he said.
Fobbs’ wife is spearheading a push to get Grambling players vaccinated, after the state began making the shots available to anyone 16 and over Monday.
Among the calls he’s made, Fobbs spoke with Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz, who went through more than his share of COVID-19 shutdowns last summer and fall.
“It’s about continuing to stand your ground. There’s nothing we can do right now except have Zoom meetings with our players and be vigilant masking and social distancing. It’s mind boggling, but you have to figure it out, some kind of way. There’s no excuses,” Fobbs said. “There’s not a minute I’m not thinking about how to make this football team better, and thinking how to get this team back out on the field working.”
Amid the frustration, Fobbs has been able to reconnect with March Madness, cheering Louisiana Tech’s NIT success and bemoaning the end of the NCAA Tournament run by Loyola-Chicago, his Cinderella team. He’s watched his daughters dance and play softball. This weekend, he’ll have a long-overdue crawfish feast.
It has allowed him time to temporarily restructure staff responsibilities, accounting for departures of offensive coaches Mark Orlando and Kendrick Nord. Fobbs is already well into the process of finding replacements.
There’s clarity in the quarterback film room after Geremy Hickbottom entered the transfer portal, leaving Elijah Walker as the only passer who has taken a snap for the Tigers. And there’s time to shape the game plans for the always-huge matchup against Southern.
“We will always take a positive approach,” Fobbs said.