HOUSTON — One of the high points of Louisiana-Lafayette’s 7-1 loss to TCU on Friday was the relief performance of senior right-hander Eric Carter.
The Santa Clara, Utah, native came in relief of Ragin’ Cajuns starter Gunner Leger in the fifth inning. He surrendered a two-run double to the first batter he faced, Horned Frogs left fielder Josh Watson, but retired seven of the other eight batters he faced including four strikeouts.
“I don’t really try to strike guys out,” said Carter, who was 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in six appearances and three starts last year. “I just try to locate pitches and make sure that I adjust to the situation. If a strikeout happens, it’s just a bonus.”
Carter said he may not have made one of those adjustments against Watson, whose hit on an inside fastball turned a 3-1 game into a 5-1 deficit.
“I didn’t really pick up on the cues,” he said. “I think he moved back and I threw it in. It might have broken back over the corner. I thought it was a good pitch. ... He got his hands inside really well.”
“He looked good,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said of Carter. “The only key that we want to get done right there is both times we’ve come out of the pen and haven’t gotten the first guy out. That’s the critical thing coming out of the bullpen, you want to get the first guy that you face.”
Reliever Will Bacon, who came on in the fifth inning Wednesday in UL-Lafayette’s 6-2 loss to Louisiana Tech, walked the first hitter he faced in what became a four-run inning for the host Bulldogs.
Carter’s best start last year was against Southern in Baton Rouge, when he struck out 11 batters in seven innings. He threw three innings, giving up one run and fanning three, in Sunday’s 13-3 finale win over Sam Houston State.
“I felt pretty comfortable with the system last year,” Carter said. “This year is a change of mindset on the mound, making sure I’m more in attack mode when I take the field. It’s just being more confident in myself and my abilities. The fastball is key, but I think with all my pitches I’m more confident with what I bring to the table.”
Conrad still hot
Junior second baseman Brenn Conrad, younger brother of former Cajuns All-American Jace Conrad, was held to a 1-for-4 showing and was only on base once against TCU. That slowed what had been a red-hot start, but Conrad has still reached base successfully in 14 of his last 19 plate appearances.
The Lafayette High graduate leads the team with a .535 batting average with five RBIs, and he has a .650 on-base percentage through five games. He’s also the only Cajuns regular not to have struck out this season.
The Cajuns will face another hot team in Saturday’s second game of the Shriners College Classic when they play the Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-1).
No. 23 Tech took a 3-2 win over ninth-ranked Houston in Friday’s opening game.
The Raiders have won four in a row after taking three of four games in a season-opening series against Milwaukee, and taking an 11-6 win over Sam Houston State — the same team the Cajuns swept at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field to open the season — on Wednesday.
Stephen Smith had a solo homer in the fifth inning for the Red Raiders to erase an early 1-0 deficit, and Tech took a 3-1 lead on Ryan Long’s two-out, two-run single in the sixth. Three Raider pitchers combined to hold Houston to five hits.
Freshman right-hander Ty Harpeneau (0-0) is slated to pitch for the Raiders. Harpeneau started in TTU’s only loss of the year, a 10-3 decision against Milwaukee, but did not get a decision after allowing three hits and fanning seven in five innings.
The Cajuns shared their Magnolia Hotel headquarters here in Houston with one of the Republican Party’s presidential candidates Thursday night.
Ben Carson, who took part in the Republican candidates’ debate at the nearby University of Houston on Thursday evening, stayed two nights at the hotel before leaving for another campaign stop Friday.
Carson’s presence and the accompanying Secret Service delegation caused a couple of minor inconveniences for the UL-Lafayette squad.
The team had to move to the hotel’s second floor at check in Thursday since the lobby was cleared, and when the Cajuns returned after practice at Minute Maid Park, the team bus was not allowed to park next to the hotel because the Carson team was about to leave.
Instead, the team and party went directly to Luke Mandola’s venerable Ragin’ Cajun Restaurant in south Houston for its Thursday evening meal.