Mr. Dependable: Gaconi leaves legacy of consistency at Southeastern
HAMMOND, La. – Corey Gaconi could not have shined any brighter in his final home start.
Needing only 106 pitches to shut out the visiting Sam Houston State Bearkats, he temporarily pushed Southeastern Louisiana to the top of the Southland Conference standings.
Of course, Gaconi is certainly no stranger to throwing complete games, especially on the big stage. In a midweek contest last season against then No. 19-ranked Mississippi State, he allowed five hits and as many runs over the course of the first inning. But he survived to put zeros on the scoreboard for the next eight frames and, with help from the Lion bats, lead his team to an 11-5 victory.
The senior right-hander left the mound after both contests as he always had – to thunderous standing ovations which recognized one of the most successful pitchers in Southeastern baseball history. He briefly let himself celebrate the moment, then he was already thinking about his next start.
His preparation begins with morning workouts to develop his arm strength and keep his mind on the game. A bullpen side session follows in the afternoon, during which he works on commanding his potent fastball and visualizing every batter he will face when he takes the mound. No matter what he does throughout the week, he remains focused on getting better and perfecting his mechanics.
The proof lies in the staggering career numbers for the native of Metairie, Louisiana. In 50 total appearances on the mound over four years, Gaconi has logged a 2.84 earned run average. His 21 career wins are tied for ninth place in the all-time rankings with Southeastern Hall of Famer Jeff Williams, and he has issued the fewest walks per nine innings (1.35) in school history.
Gaconi regards his walk total with great pride, since it signifies the steady approach that he developed during his days at Brother Martin High School.
“I pride myself on throwing strikes and getting outs, and I like knowing that I’ve been consistent with it,” Gaconi said. “Because it’s not a single-season record that says a lot about my consistency.”
Another important hallmark of Gaconi is the poised demeanor he carries, both on and off the baseball diamond. In the eyes of the coaching staff, it ultimately propels him into a class all his own.
“He knows that he’s got four pitches for a strike, and obviously he works really hard,” said pitching coach Andrew Gipson. “We have a lot of guys who do that, but some of them don’t have quite as much confidence as he does in his stuff. He just wins.”
When Gaconi steps on the mound, he becomes an intimidating figure for opposing hitters. Mistakes are uncharacteristic, but Gaconi quickly corrects them with an 0-2 count and a slider. His 87 strikeouts this season rank third in the Southland Conference and his strikeout-to-walk ratio, better than 9.5-to-1, ranks fifth nationally.
The second he comes off the field, however, is a different story.
He suddenly becomes too modest to mention any positive thing he accomplished, but that only merits more respect from his teammates.
“To see him become the person he is today, we have witnessed one of Southeastern’s greatest baseball players,” senior catcher Evan Pace remarked. “People used to say that he would never make it, and he worked harder than anybody else I have ever seen.”
Gaconi readily admits that his most significant personal growth occurred during his sophomore and junior seasons, because he encountered plenty of ups and downs.
And he understands that the younger members of the pitching staff are always peeking over his shoulder, hoping to repeat his achievements one day.
Like the other seniors in the program, they can always count on him to share his wisdom.
“I like to take guys under my wing and show them the ways that have made me successful,” Gaconi explained. “If anybody needs help, I’m always willing to do it. I think I have done a great job of that, especially the younger guys.”
Gaconi graduates from Southeastern this week with a degree in marketing, but he is likely to have a different future.
In their Southland Conference preview earlier this year, the staff at D1 Baseball named Gaconi as one of the top prospects for the 2019 MLB Draft. Whether or not he hears his name, he will not be an easy arm to replace in 2020.
“I told him two weeks ago that what he’s doing this season is not easy to do,” Gipson said. “We have a lot of good, pro-level arms in this program, and none of them are doing what he has done from an earned-run average standpoint. He treats every day like it’s Friday night, and that’s why he is able to do it on a consistent basis.”
SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT INFORMATION
Tickets for the 2019 Southland Conference Baseball Tournament are on sale through the TDECU Ticket Office at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas, by phone at (281) 240-4487 or online at www.southland.org/baseball.
The double-elimination tournament, scheduled for May 22-25 at Constellation Field (1 Stadium Drive, Sugar Land, Texas, 77498), will feature the league’s top eight teams and concludes with a winner-take-all championship game May 25 at 6 p.m. CT. The winner of the tournament will receive the Southland’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. All games will broadcast on ESPN+.
LIONS GAMEDAY EXPERIENCE APP
The new Lions Gameday Experience app puts audio, stats, video, social media and more in the hands of fans. Those in attendance can also check in to earn reward points redeemable for Southeastern-related prizes. Available for both Android and iOS devices, it can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.
DIAMOND CLUB / S CLUB
Fans interested in becoming active supporters of the baseball program are encouraged to join the Diamond Club. Lion baseball alums are encouraged to join the exclusive S Club, which is restricted to Southeastern athletic letter winners.
All membership fees and donations to both the Diamond Club and S Club (baseball) are available for the exclusive use of the Southeastern baseball program. Membership information is available by contacting the Lion Athletics Association at firstname.lastname@example.org or (985) 549-5091 or visiting www.LionUp.com.
For more information on Lions Baseball, follow @LionUpBaseball or @MattRiser17 on Twitter, @LionUpBaseball on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.
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