Vaught shuts naysayers up with victory

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

It’s never a good idea to tell someone I told you so. No matter how many times you can prove someone wrong, they never get the same pleasure you do. Who knows why that is?

And as humble and polite of a man Huntington product Chad Vaught is, collecting his first career win at LSU in Wednesday night’s 6-2 victory over Nicholls State stifled doubters, who said the fifth-year senior could not be an effective piece of the Tiger’s pitching rotation puzzle after off-season arm surgery.

&8220;Coach (Ray &8220;Smoke&8221; Laval) and I talked about waiting until I was mentally ready to go,&8221; Vaught said. &8220;I knows he knows what I’m capable of and he was just waiting for my velocity to pick back up and my curve to start breaking sharp again.&8221;

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Until Wednesday Vaught’s career is the proverbial pink elephant scenario &045; everybody knows it is a burning issue that bears attention, but no one wants to mention it.

Vaught, a two-time Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll member, has been a victim of circumstance in his five years at LSU.

Embedded with a world of talent coming from Ferriday, where he finished with a Pedro Martinez-like 0.91 earned run average and nearly a 2 to 1 strikeout-to-innings ratio (149:78) his senior year for the Hounds, Vaught was tossed a nasty curve his first two years of college.

&8220;I knew it was going to take a while for me to start (at LSU),&8221; said Vaught, who threw four innings of scoreless ball Wednesday. &8220;They tell everybody unless you’re unbelievably outstanding to expect to redshirt &8221;

LSU’s legendary then-head coach Skip Bertman opted to throw his more experienced pitchers, which left Vaught doing grunt duties and pitching in the bullpen.

When former assistant Laval took over last season for the retired Bertman his philosophy was 180-degrees different.

&8220;I sort of fell in the wrong mix at the wrong time,&8221; Vaught said.

Laval wanted his young arms to get work to breed the battle testing. Despite that, Vaught earned a spot on the starting rotation with a good fall.

After rekindling some magic in a Feb. 12, 2002, start against Southeastern Louisiana where he had hitters off-balanced and confused, including eight strikeouts in six innings, Vaught missed his second start a week later, and ultimately the season, with pain in his pitching arm.

After repairing loose ligaments in his shoulder, orthopedic surgeons shaved down his elbow that had bone chips preventing him from flexing on his follow through.

Vaught made only one appearance this year before Wednesday, facing two Northwestern State batters before Laval yanked him.

Vaught said he was a lot more comfortable on the mound last night.

&8220;Once you get out there it takes a while to calm down with your adrenaline pumping,&8221; he said. &8220;But last night I was able to relax, concentrate and focus on throwing strikes.&8221;

And with a little more than a month left in the regular season Vaught hopes Wednesday night won’t be his last shot to prove tot Tiger fans five years was worth the wait.

&8220;We’ve got a lot of good arms on this team, but there has never been a set rotation,&8221; Vaught said. &8220;We never know who’s going to pitch. Hopefully I can continue to help the team with good innings, though.&8221;

Chuck Corder

is a sportswriter for The Natchez Democrat. You can reach him at (601) 445-3633 or by e-mail at chuck.corder@natchezdemocrat. com