He had it when he pitched the final out in Arizona’s College World Series-clinching game against South Carolina in June.
He had it when he opened the season as Arizona’s closer and climbed up the UA all-time leaderboard with eight saves in the Wildcats’ first 33 games.
Mathew Troupe’s beard has been with him for most of his Arizona career.
That is, until Monday.
“It’s all gone,” Troupe said.
It took him just 10 minutes to shave off the facial hair he grew out over the last three months.
“It lost its intimidation factor,” he said, with a smile. “No, it’s just time to shake things up a little bit. I had a couple rough outings.”
Troupe had one of his lesser outings of the season against Washington State on Saturday, allowing three runs and three walks in one-third of an inning. The Wildcats still won the game 6-5, but the damage was done.
Before that game, Troupe (2-0) had a 1.56 ERA in 17 appearances. After, he had a 2.72.
“It’s one of those freak experiences you have,” said catcher Riley Moore. “Maybe he needed to get his head straight, but what happened, happened.”
In his first game post-shave, against ASU on Tuesday, he went 1-2-3 in recording his ninth save of the season and dropped his ERA back down to 2.55. The save moved Troupe, a sophomore, into a tie for third place in UA history with 15 career saves.
“He had a rough outing,” head coach Andy Lopez said of the WSU game. “He walked the bases loaded, which is kind of what he does. I don’t know why. He looked good [Tuesday] night, though. He came in and threw strikes right out of the gate and helped his confidence. He bounced back, which you need out of that role.”
Overall though, Troupe’s numbers are solid.
On the season, he has 38 strikeouts against 12 walks and opponents are batting .161 against him after going .271 last year.
Moore credits Troupe’s increasing velocity on his fastball, an improving changeup and a consistently “great” curveball for his improved play.
But in the grand scheme of things, it’s all about balls and strikes.
When Troupe throws strikes, he thrives. When he throws balls, bad things happen (see: Washington State).
Lopez jokes that Troupe is a bit wilder than he would like. That’s no more evident than his performance against the Cougars, or in the first game against ASU last year. In that matchup, Troupe allowed four earned runs, two hits, two walks and didn’t record an out.
Moore said he has a rapport with Troupe, he knows how to keep him even-keeled. Over-anxiousnesses and large doses of adrenaline come with the territory of being a closer. He tells him to slow the game down, and lets him know that his stuff “will win against any batter in the country”.
“When I have thrown strikes I usually get results,” Troupe said. “And when I haven’t, momentum has gone against me, and that’s how it is closing. You really want to keep the momentum on your side and attack the other team. The moment you give them a free base, give them that walk, you kind of feel momentum shift, and you don’t want that. I gotta go out there and throw strikes.”
As for his beard? By Wednesday’s practice, it had already started growing back.
Whether or not he grows it out again, though, remains to be seen.
“It’s one of those things,” said Moore. “Sometimes you keep it, sometimes you take it away. Judging from his performance against ASU, I think it’s all right.”
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 195 pounds
Hometown: Northridge, Calif.
Career Stats: 8-1 record, 3.10 ERA, 43 appearances (1 start), 61.0 innings, 15 saves, 82 strikeouts, 31 walks, .229 average against