LAFAYETTE — In a prescient moment, Louisiana-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux expressed the importance of momentum to his team before its home opener against Stony Brook Friday night.
The key is getting it on your side and capturing it, turning it into adrenaline, all while suffocating the opposing team’s chance at a spark, especially when playing in front of a friendly — and packed — house.
His team was paying attention. The Cajuns (3-2) didn’t falter when they fell in an early 3-0 hole, then used a momentum shift to leapfrog Stony Brook (1-3) with seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
“It’s so important to play with adrenaline and be able to get your fans behind you,” Robichaux said. “We did a great job of that tonight.
And when it came down to making sure that spark was suffocated? They had the perfect guy for that job with Colton Lee, the Cajuns anti-epinephrine, who earned his second save in as many games with three filthy shutout innings.
But before the Cajuns could find their own spark, they were shut down by the Seawolves’ southpaw Tyler Honahan, who breezed through the Cajuns’ lineup for four shutout innings.
While Honahan was dealing the Cajuns a steady diet of well-placed off-speed pitches, Cajuns freshman right-hander Evan Guillory mostly held serve. The only damage Stony Brook inflicted was in the first inning, when cleanup hitter Casey Baker plated a run by lacing a two-out triple over the head of center fielder Joe Robbins.
That was all Guillory would give up until he reached the fifth inning and his leg started to cramp. He was precise in his first four innings, but lost his command in the fifth, throwing only nine of his 21 pitches that inning for strikes.
He walked the first two batters of the frame, both bottom of the order hitters. Three batters later, the Seawolves had pushed the lead to 3-0 and Robichaux yanked his freshman starter from the game. Robichaux called on left-hander Riley Cooper (1-0), who got out of the frame with no further damage.
But when Honahan started suffering a similar lapse in control in the bottom half of the fifth, the Cajuns felt their chance. After his teammates sandwiched a single between a pair of walks, designated hitter Stefan Trosclair yanked a two-run double down the left field line.
“We knew coming in that this guy was stingy,” Robichaux said. “We were very fortunate that we were able to break him. But that’s the sign of a good ball club — to hang in there, not panic, not start to get frustrated because you’re not hitting a good arm.”
The next hitter in the lineup, Greg Davis, plated Trosclair with an RBI single, and momentum shifted firmly in the Cajuns favor.
The Cajuns followed their three-run fifth with a four-run sixth, this time with the big blow coming off the bat of Nick Thurman, who hammered a two-run triple over the center fielder’s head. Trosclair picked up Thurman with an RBI single later in the inning to make it a 7-4 Cajuns lead.
“We’ve always been taught to keep coming like waves on an ocean,” Trosclair said. “Wave after wave, keep coming and eventually a big inning will be there. We’ll get our runs in. There’s no panic or anything.”
With a three-run lead, Robichaux turned to Lee with the intention of using him for the remainder of the game.
“When we got the game turned back around, we were going to Colton,” Robichaux said. “We wanted to shorten the game.”
Lee allowed just one base runner in the final three innings, needing only 39 pitches to get through three frames.
With inclement weather expected Sunday, the Cajuns will play a doubleheader Saturday, with the first game slated for 2 p.m. at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field. After throwing three innings Friday, Robichaux said Lee will not be available Saturday.
Robichaux is now two wins shy of 1,000 career coaching wins, meaning he would celebrate the milestone if the Cajuns pull off the sweep Saturday.