UL-Lafayette at Georgia State
Friday, 5 p.m. (CDT), GSU Baseball Complex, Atlanta, Ga.
RECORDS: UL-Lafayette 10-7, 3-2 Sun Belt; GSU 13-7, 2-0
RADIO: KPEL-AM 1420
Louisiana-Lafayette’s baseball team would like nothing better than to get back into a routine.
That’s why the Ragin’ Cajuns held a pair of simulated games during Tuesday and Wednesday practices, filling a week void of mid-week games with intrasquad contests designed to get a lot of players and a lot of pitchers some much-needed work.
“We had a lot of things set up and a lot of guys that we wanted to see last week,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “This week had set up good for us with no midweek games after we had a five-game week set up last week.”
That was before most of the week was lost to weather, with the two midweek affairs postponed until later in the season and a weekend series at Arkansas-Little Rock reduced to a Sunday doubleheader. The Cajuns spent more daylight hours in hotel rooms than on the field for three days leading up to the Sunday twin bill.
Not surprisingly, the Cajuns didn’t look like the same team that had won six in a row, taking two out of three from Alabama and sweeping Troy in their opening Sun Belt Conference series. Instead, they dropped two late decisions to UALR.
“You try not to use that as a license to lose,” Robichaux said. “We got busted out of a lot of routines, which is not good. Athletes are coached to stay in routines, and dead time is not good for a young team. Last year’s team could handle that easy, they showed that when it rained at the regional. This team hasn’t gone through that.”
The Cajuns (10-7, 3-2 Sun Belt) made sure this wouldn’t be a second “lost week” with the intrasquad games, with nearly a dozen pitchers seeing extensive action. Robichaux said he wanted to get most of his staff involved, including regular starter Greg Milhorn and virtually all of his bullpen.
“A lot of these guys went a whole week without seeing live batters,” he said. “Relievers like to be in the mix, and that’s a big thing where the intrasquad can help us. They’re getting the chance to face live hitters going into the weekend.”
UL-Lafayette is back on the road this week for another Sun Belt series and a first trip to face Georgia State. This is the only time all season that the Cajuns will play road series on consecutive conference weekends.
Unlike the Cajuns’ inactivity for most of the past two weeks, Georgia State had a busy nonconference week with mixed results. The Panthers (13-7, 2-0 Sun Belt) took a 12-11 win over Florida A&M pm Tuesday on a game-winning squeeze bunt in the 11th inning, but fell to Savannah State 7-3 Wednesday afternoon to snap a four-game win streak.
GSU had taken a doubleheader sweep at Arkansas State on Sunday, a twin bill created after rain-outs in Jonesboro on both Friday and Saturday.
By the time UL-Lafayette opens its weekend series at 5 p.m. Friday at GSU, the squad will have played only twice in 12 days in the two Sunday losses at UALR.
“At the start of the year, we said this was the type team that could play itself into a better team,” Robichaux said. “This team needs the practice with so many new guys, and we need to be in a game-type setting right now.”
But Robichaux said there was a silver lining to the two Sunday losses.
“I’m actually glad that we faced that,” he said. “I’m not happy, but there’s a difference in glad and happy. When you sit around like we did and then get dumped twice, some challenges will arise, which is good. This team needs that.”
The Cajuns go into the third weekend of Sun Belt play leading the league in team batting average (.285), and junior shortstop Blake Trahan is the league’s top hitter individually with a .431 average that ranks him 33rd nationally.
Trahan also leads the league and is 14th nationally in doubles (nine), is tied for first in the Sun Belt in hits (28) and is second in the conference and 32nd nationally in on-base percentage (.530). He is currently the Sun Belt’s toughest strikeout, with one in every 13 at-bats.
Outfielder Kyle Clement tops the Sun Belt in triples per game (0.15), and as a team UL-Lafayette leads the league in doubles (2.18 per game) and triples (0.41 per game).
Trahan’s hot start
Trahan was on base nine times in 10 plate appearances against the Trojans including a pair of intentional walks. Over his past seven games, Trahan is 16-of-24 with nine of those 16 hits going for extra bases.
“He’s lost a lot of support around him from last year and yet he’s putting up even bigger numbers,” Robichaux said. “That shows you how good a player he is and how good he can be. He’s had another year of mastering his craft at the level he’s at. A lot of times you don’t know how much you miss guys like that until they leave, when he walks out the door as a first or second round draft choice.”
Robichaux said that Milhorn (0-0, 4.34 ERA) will return to this week’s pitching rotation and will start the Saturday game, in between freshmen Evan Guillory (1-0, 5.26) and Gunner Leger (2-0, 3.58) on Friday and Sunday. Milhorn missed the previous week with a tender arm but could have thrown if the UALR series had gone to three games.
“We scratched him just for safety sake last week,” Robichaux said. “We’re going with him in the middle and go left-right-left for the weekend.”
Dates have been set to make up last week’s two weather cancellations. UL-Lafayette will host Northwestern State on Wednesday, April 29, after last Tuesday’s game was washed out, and will travel to Baton Rouge to meet Southern on Wednesday, April 28, after last Wednesday’s cancellation.