By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – It’s doubtful if many Curve fans can pronounce Tate Scioneaux’s last name correctly — even his teammates have a tough time with it — but they all know when No. 18 takes the mound, the game is probably on the line.
When Montana DuRapau, the club’s all-time leader in saves, was promoted to Indianapolis earlier in the season, Scioneaux became the Curve’s new closer, and he loves the additional responsibility that comes with pitching in the late innings.
“I feel great about it,” Scioneaux said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “The closer role is pretty neat.”
“It’s pronounced C-N-O,” Scioneaux responded when asked to pronounce his name. “It’s French,” noted Scioneaux, who was born and still lives in Reserve, La., between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
“When Montana went to Indy, I went to Hick (pitching coach Bryan Hickerson) to talk about a new closer and we both said Scioneaux at the same time,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said. “We trust him. He’s reliable.”
If the Curve are to make the Eastern League playoffs, they’re going to need Scioneaux to be a strong finisher in the stretch run. As of late July, the 6-1, 200-pound right hander had a 6-3 record and 1.94 ERA, along with a couple saves, as a middle and long reliever.
However, the closer’s role is different, although Scioneaux has done it in earlier minor league stops.
A graduate of Riverside Academy, Scioneaux went to Southeastern Louisiana where he had an outstanding career. A starting pitcher most of his college career, he was named Southland Conference Tournament MVP after leading his team to the championship as a junior. Along the way, he pitched 36.1 scoreless innings – a team record.
“Coming out of high school, I wasn’t heavily recruited,” Scioneaux said. “But, I played well in summer ball and Southeastern offered me. It was D1 and only an hour from home. I wanted to play D1 and got the opportunity.
“I was a starter for three years,” Scioneaux said, “but I became a reliever when I went to pro ball. Coming out of the bullpen is different, but I adjusted pretty well and hit the ground running.”
Scioneaux was selected by the Pirates in the 39th round of the 2015 draft. After signing, he spent the 2015 season with short season West Virginia, posting a 1-0 record and 1.99 ERA in 10 games – all in relief.
He began 2016 in single-A West Virginia and appeared in seven games – again all in relief – and notched three saves in three chances. He was promoted to advanced-A Bradenton in May and appeared in relief in 32 games for the Marauders. He had a 4-3 record and 3.06 ERA, along with two saves.
“I didn’t know how to take it at first,” Scioneuax said of going from starter to reliever. “After starting my whole life, it was a big adjustment, but I picked the brains of other guys who had done it.
“Your mind has to be right to be a closer and I think my mindset is pretty good.”
Ryan also managed Scioneaux in Bradenton last season and is familiar with his abilities.
“He came to us from West Virginia and was one of our go-to guys,” Ryan said. “He was a huge part of our championship run.”
Although he left college after his junior year to sign with the Pirates, Scioneaux earned a degree in general studies this past May.
He enjoys pitching in the Eastern League, too, and is working on developing a slider to go with a fastball and changeup.
“You’re facing hitters who either have been in the big leagues or are just a call away,” Scioneaux said. “And, you’re also just a call away from the ultimate goal, too.”