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Q&A with former Mallard & current LSU pitcher Nolan Cain

LSU senior pitcher Nolan Cain played briefly for the Madison Mallards last summer and posted a 0-1 record and 9.26 ERA in four starts from June 29 to July 24. This past season for the Tigers he went 5-0 with a 4.01 ERA in 33.2 innings.

The Cantonment, FL native was reached from the team’s hotel in Omaha, Neb. for a Q&A session ahead of tonight’s crucial game three of the 2009 College World Series against the Texas Longhorns.

*Quick funny note: Upon being told that Cain would wear #00 last summer for the Mallards, he replied “I’m cool with it as long as you don’t start having me make balloon animals in the bullpen between-innings.” (Thanks to former PR intern Michael Schroeder for reminding me of this quote)

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What is the team’s mood heading into tonight’s do-or-die game three of the College World Series versus Texas? Before last night’s loss your team had won 14 games in a row and must’ve felt a sense of invincibility going into that potential clincher.

Cain: The loss reminded me a lot of the game against UC-Irvine last year in which we were defeated in the Super Regional after winning 23 games in a row. But our confidence was never shaken and even after last night’s 5-1 loss, we still feel that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we have a great chance of being crowned national champions later tonight. We’ve only lost back-to-back games once this season and we have our ace, sophomore Anthony Ranaudo (11-3, 2.87 ERA), on the hill and senior Louis Coleman (14-2, 2.98 ERA) coming out of the bullpen, so we’ll have our best arms available at the right time. Texas’ starter Cole Green (5-3, 5.07 ERA) is a nasty pitcher so our offense will definitely have its hands full tonight.

You appeared in last night’s game and threw 3.1 scoreless innings in relief while allowing 3 hits and striking out 4 batters, and kept the Longhorns from extending their 5-1 lead; how did you feel in knowing that it could be the last time you toe the mound as an LSU Tiger?

It was definitely an emotional moment knowing that it could’ve been the last time I touch the ball while playing for this storied Tiger program. But when you’re pitching in a College World Series game you have to check your emotions in the bullpen and just let your instinct take over from there. If my number is called tonight I’ll try to take the same mentality heading onto the field and if not, I’ll be content in knowing that my last pitching performance helped keep my team in the game.

You came off Tommy John Surgery your freshman season in 2005 and have become a solid bullpen contributor and good clubhouse veteran. What advice would you give guys like current Mallards pitcher Jordan Hershiser (USC) who is coming off the same injury and might be staring at the same obstacles you were facing four years ago?

The first thing guys should know is that the rehabilitation is a process, and an often grueling and methodical progression in that. And even though your arm will feel better than it ever has right away after the surgery, you can’t let that rush you into thinking you’re closer to being completely healed than you really are. You’ll still go through natural pains such as when scar tissue is breaking and reforming, but that is all part of the process. If you do everything that your doctor, trainer, and coaching staff tells you, you should come out a better pitcher on the other side of the surgery.

Although your stay in Madison last summer was brief (Cain had to leave to take a summer school course in order to maintain eligibility for the 2008-09 college season) you still received four starts and had the opportunity to experience playing in a wood bat league and minor league-type atmosphere. What did you take away from your time with the Mallards and what message would you pass onto prospective collegiate baseball players who are looking for a place to play in the summer?

Yeah, even though my time in Madison was shorter than I had hoped, I did enjoy the opportunity to receive those four starts and they definitely helped me this season in my role as a long reliever for the Tigers. Even though I got roughed up in my first start (1.2 IP, 11 ER, 4 BB’s), I was able to bounce back and only allow one earned run in my next 10 innings of work. Also, in my 28 days that I was in a Mallards uniform, I was able to lose 25 lbs that I’ve since kept off and has helped me become a better pitcher because of it.


My message to prospective college players is to go into the Northwoods League season expecting to go about your daily business as if it’s a job and not a vacation. Yeah it’s fun to meet and play with new teammates, but each guy should have an agenda coming into the season and continue to do things to make the team better and win ballgames. As a pitcher it’s definitely a great time to learn new pitches from the coaching staff and teammates and get better day-in-and-day-out. You look at guys like Brandon Wikoff (Illinois) and Robert Lyerly (Charlotte) who I played with last summer in Madison and they were always trying to figure out ways to improve their game. Both were drafted high in this year’s MLB Draft because of their attitude and willingness to become better overall players.

You graduated this past May with a degree in General Studies; where do you see life taking you after tonight’s final game of the 2009 season?

Even though I wasn’t drafted a few weeks back I’d still like to keep playing baseball as long as I can so I plan on pursuing free agency and hope that I can catch on with a minor league team. If my playing days appear to be over I’d like to pursue coaching in college baseball as soon as possible to stay around the game.


LSU Assistant Coach Javi Sanchez played for the Mallards back in 2003 as a catcher and went on to hit .262 with 26 RBI. Does he ever reminisce about his playing days in Madison?


Oh yeah, Coach Sanchez still talks about the big crowds and wild atmosphere that the Mallards have grown to be notorious for. He was actually very instrumental in me coming up to play in Madison last summer and I’ve certainly learned a lot from hearing about his experiences as both a player and coach.


How about a prediction for tonight’s game?

It’s definitely going to be a close game as both teams are throwing their top pitchers and the entire bullpen is available to be used. We feel very confident that Ranaudo will come up huge for us once again as he’s done all season long, and we have a great shot at hoisting the NCAA National Championship trophy tonight.