LAFAYETTE — Tony Robichaux’s first chance at 1,000 career wins was a very un-Robichaux-like game for his UL-Lafayette baseball squad.
The Ragin’ Cajuns made uncharacteristic errors, both physical and mental, and didn’t get enough offense to overcome those miscues in their 5-4 17-inning loss to nearby rival McNeese State.
What the Cajuns didn’t do was struggle on the mound in what was likely their longest game in nearly 45 years, and that performance pleased and perplexed UL-Lafayette’s skipper.
“We pitched really good ... every arm that came in did a great job of giving us every opportunity to win,” Robichaux said. “You’ve got to be able to man up at the plate and get the job done.”
The Cajuns stranded 15 runners, left the bases loaded once in the eighth inning and once in extra innings. But the play that stuck in Robichaux’s craw came in the bottom of the 11th, when UL-Lafayette had a prime chance to end the game and add to the coach’s 999 career wins.
The Cajuns had a runner at third base with one out, but on a pitchout, Kyle Clement broke for the plate and was eventually tagged out in a rundown.
“We made mistakes on the bases that are inexcusable,” Robichaux said. “That just can’t happen. We had many chances to win. Somebody’s got to get to the plate and get the job done when a guy’s 90 feet away.”
Five of the Cajuns’ seven pitchers are newcomers to this year’s squad, including starter Gunner Leger. The Lake Charles freshman scattered four hits and fanned four in four innings, but only one of the three runs he allowed were earned as the UL-Lafayette defense committed three errors behind him.
In all, Cajuns pitchers struck out 16 batters, walked seven and gave up only two earned runs for the evening. Even the winning run in the top of the 17th, when Connor Lloyd singled home Connor Crane, was unearned after Crane reached on a rare Blake Trahan error at shortstop.
“All the freshmen really threw well,” Robichaux said. “Gunner threw well. We made Gunner throw 33 pitches to get out of that inning. We can’t do that. We said all year that when these freshmen start to grow up a little bit, we need to make sure we don’t make old player mistakes. We made too many mistakes along the way.
“The biggest thing that’s disappointing is that we thought we were going to have to wait to grow the pitchers — that’s where all the young stuff is. Offensively, that’s where a lot of the veterans are at, so what happened tonight was inexcusable.”
Robichaux, who will have to wait until the weekend’s three-game series against Alabama at Hoover Met to get his next shot at 1,000 wins, said the marathon game only magnified his squad’s miscues.
“We have to get rid of ticky-tack mistakes along the way, because they cost you in a game like this. It became a pillow fight at the plate ... you don’t know if you’re going to pull away offensively in a game like this.”
The game featured a total of 543 pitches from 15 different pitchers ... UL-Lafayette and McNeese State met in the longest regular-season game in Division I baseball history March 27, 1971, when the teams battled 23 innings before McNeese took a 6-5 win in what was incredibly the first game of a doubleheader.