LAFAYETTE — UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux knows the difference between happy and glad.
He’s not happy his team’s six-game winning streak ended by losing each game of a Sunday doubleheader against UALR in the bottom of the ninth inning. But he’s glad that his youthful team has another experience to draw on in the future.
“One good thing is that they went through it,” Robichaux said. “There are things that we’ve got to go through to grow, especially with having so many new guys.”
Helping them along the way are the experienced few, like Tyler Girouard, Blake Trahan, Greg Davis and Nick Thurman, who are not only leading the way in production but are guiding the team through the sometimes clear, sometimes turbulent waters of a full college baseball season.
Those four have accounted for more than 50 percent of the Cajuns’ 170 hits this season, playing a crucial role in accounting for the production lost to the Major League Baseball draft this offseason.
But they also lend an experienced hand to those who haven’t gone through it before.
“As soon as we dropped those two this weekend, they kind of huddled us all up,” said freshman pitcher Gunner Leger. “Obviously we didn’t do some things very well, that’s why we lost, but they were saying in the grand scheme of things that’s only two games.
“We’ve got 40 more to play. So they were just saying it’s not always as bad as it can be, and it’s not always as good as it can be.”
Nobody on the team is more versed in the ups and downs of a college baseball season than Girouard, the fifth-year senior known as ‘Shug’ to his teammates.
Girouard has started on a 58-win team that didn’t lose back-to-back games until the last two games of the season, and he’s also started on a team that went 23-30 and lost 10 of 12 at one point.
When the team needs a voice, Girouard is often there to oblige.
“He’s really good vocally,” Davis said. “Shug gets the team together and he lets them know, ‘Hey man, the world’s not ending because we lost on back-to-back walk offs.’”
Trahan is the undisputed best player on the team. He’s off to a monster start in his junior season, hitting .431 at the top of the Cajuns’ order. He allows Girouard to be the voice while he and the other experienced members of the roster set the example.
Not many people are going to step in Trahan’s shoes and hit .400, but he feels that he can provide another useful lesson to his younger teammates.
“The biggest thing right now is for us to be able to come out and play with energy each and every day,” Trahan said. “That’s been our struggle. We’ve had games where we were kind of down and we played bad because of that. Every day we’ve got to come out and bring the hustle, bring the intensity and we’ll be fine.”
With the few established veterans leading the way, the team now has to learn how to respond to a disappointing weekend. This goes back to why Robichaux is glad — not happy.
In order for his team to get where he wants it to go, it has to go through adversity. And as Davis said, there’s no worse way to lose two games in one day than to lose them both in walk-off fashion.
“Champions do one thing: They do not try to avoid pain and struggle,” Robichaux said. “Losers try to avoid pain and struggle and still be a champion, I don’t think you can do that.
“… I understand with 30 years in this that the more you can get through pain and struggle and learn how to handle and deal with it, the better you become.”
His veterans have been through this before and understand it. The key is imparting that wisdom onto the ones who haven’t been through it before.
“It’s not good that we lost, but it’s good that it happened early,” Davis said. “We can build off that so if something like that happens again we can handle it a different way.”
Another benefit of experience? The confidence that comes with it.
“You always want to be prepared to respond, because there’s going to be times during the season where we’re going to drop a couple games,” Trahan said. “We’ve got to be able to respond. We dropped these last two games, now we’ve got to respond and go to Georgia State and win the series.”