Rogers owns this hood

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, May 23, 2023

With a giant chip on his right shoulder, Grant Rogers came to McNeese State last season with something to prove.

Disappointed in his final year of junior college play, and the summer that followed, nobody knew what Rogers had, except him.

“I did not throw well before coming here,” Rogers said. “I was slow, unsure of myself, but I knew what I could do it. I just had to prove it.”

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Since putting on a Cowboys uniform, Rogers has been a completely different pitcher.

“He is the guy you can count on every time out,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “He gives us a chance to win even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.”

Those outings have been rare. Last year Rogers was 7-4 with a 4.26 earned run average. That was good enough to be selected Pitcher of the Year in the Southland Conference.

For an encore, the junior from Panola Community College in Texas, has been even better. He is 11-1, tying the single-season program record for wins, and his ERA is 2.00, winning the league’s top honor once again. All that despite getting everybody’s best game.

“To go out there and do what he has done with a big target on his back is amazing,” Hill said.

“To have the guts to change from some things and go from a good pitcher to a great pitcher is really something.”

Rogers has twice been named the league’s Pitcher of the Week this season as he gets set for his start in the conference tournament play-in game tonight against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (24-29) with the Cowboys’ season on the line.

For his career, Rogers is 18-5 with a 3.05 ERA and has become the clear ace of the Cowboys’ staff. And, at times, he is almost unhittable.

“When he is in rhythm, nobody gets to him,” said McNeese catcher Andruw Gonzales.

Rogers has become calm on the mound, working at a fast pace that sees him sometimes throwing a pitch 4 seconds after he gets the signal. That was not always the case.

“I used to be really slow,” Rogers said. “I took my time and was thinking too much.”

Now he just throws it, which his teammates love.

“He is great to play behind,” said shortstop Josh Leslie after Rogers shut out George Washington 2-0 in a hour, 45 minutes on March 3.

“That keeps you in the game,” Leslie said. “You have to be ready because he is going to throw it fast.”

As for opposing batters, they are not big fans.

“I have some friends on Lamar who told me they didn’t feel comfortable when I work fast,” Rogers said. “That made me want to work faster.

“Really, I’m just trying to get us off the field fast so my teammates can hit again.”

Rogers knew coming into the season he wasn’t going to surprise anybody like the year before.

“Yes, I knew there was a target on my back,” he said. “I just try to get better every week. I want to be better this week then next week.”

He did set a goal. When Hill went to him before the season, he told Rogers he wanted him to throw his first complete game.

Rogers has thrown three.

And he has done it while having fun.

“He has a good time,” Hill said. “Not much gets to him. He is a 6-foot-7, 240-pound child.”

Always smiling, he even plays to the crowd when he rakes the batters’ boxes between innings.

Rogers does turn serious when he talks about his future. Having graduated, he said he hopes to be drafted this summer. If the offer is right, he is ready to go.

“That has always been my dream,” Rogers said. “It would be great.”

But if he doesn’t like the contract, he is willing to come back for a third season at McNeese.

“I love it here,” Rogers said. “We will just have to see what happens.”

With Rogers you can expect it to happen quickly.