Louisiana-Lafayette’s baseball team is on the precipice of providing coach Tony Robichaux with a landmark win, and it’s only fitting — especially this season — that pitching has put the Ragin’ Cajuns at that edge.
The Cajuns had only 18 hits combined in a three-game series with Stony Brook, and only 11 in Saturday’s doubleheader split with the Seawolves. But it was a series of solid mound performances that gave the hosts a 2-of-3 series win, and boosted Robichaux to 999 career wins.
“Hitting’s going to always be up and down because it’s just hitting. You fail at it 70 percent of the time,” Robichaux said after the Cajuns’ pulsating 2-1 win in Saturday’s series finale. “But we will compete in the box and we will compete defensively, and the more the pitchers get on the mound and pitch with intent, they come out of the bullpen with trust, the better off we’ll be.”
Robichaux’s 736th win at UL-Lafayette and 999th overall was reminiscent of many others, with senior Greg Milhorn throwing seven impressive innings, reliever Dylan Moore allowing only one baserunner on a walk, and senior Tyler Girouard delivering a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to break a 1-1 tie.
The win boosted the Cajuns to a 4-3 record and continued a remarkable streak, with UL-Lafayette still not losing back-to-back regular-season games since May of 2013.
Milhorn and Girouard are two of only five seniors on the squad, a product of last year’s 58-10 and NCAA Regional champion team having six juniors depart to the professional ranks. Milhorn is the mound staff’s only senior and the only truly experienced hand out of a 20-man pitching staff that was a huge question mark entering the season.
“We’ll go as far as we can pitch, because a lot of our age is on the field,” Robichaux said. “There’s no age coming out of the bullpen, and on the mound there’s not a lot of it. Millie pitched like a senior should do (Saturday), but outside of that we’re going to be young.”
Milhorn, coming off an injury-plagued junior year, got 16 ground-ball outs and four strikeouts on Saturday and didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning when a leadoff double and a one-out single led to Stony Brook’s only run. Moore came in the eighth and fanned three of the seven hitters he faced.
Chris Charpentier struggled in the first two innings of Saturday’s opener when the Seawolves took a 3-0 lead, but Will Bacon didn’t allow an earned run over the next five innings and Nick Zaunbrecher retired all six he faced in the final two innings of that 4-1 loss.
Those outings followed solid performances by Riley Cooper and Colton Lee out of the bullpen in Friday’s 7-3 win, when freshman starter Evan Guillory struggled with leg cramps and left with the Cajuns down 3-0 in the fifth, before they rallied for a 7-3 win.
In all, UL-Lafayette’s pen didn’t allow an earned run (only one run overall) and scattered eight hits in 13.1 innings over the weekend, while also walking only one and fanning seven.
“It’s good to get those guys weathered,” said Girouard, who laced the up-the-middle game-winner in Saturday’s nightcap after Stony Brook walked the red-hot Greg Davis (10 hits in seven games) in front of him. “(Milhorn) had a great outing and that was very good to see, to get him going this year. Dylan did great coming out of the pen, he stepped up. People talk about how young our pitchers are, but we’re going to be all right.”
“We needed this because we didn’t get a lot of runs,” said Robichaux, who has coached the Cajun pitchers throughout his 21 years as head coach. “But as a pitching coach I don’t care how many runs we get. The bottom line is we have to pitch and stay away from the three-run inning and don’t worry about how many runs our hitters score.”
Robichaux was already looking toward this weekend’s upcoming series at Alabama, when he said his starters will get a major and much-needed test.
“It’s going to be 45 as a high and it’s three games at Alabama,” he said. “You can’t get roughed up in any tougher conditions than we’re fixing to head. That’s going to be good for us, we have to get weathered and get beat on. We know sometimes it’s not going to be pretty, but we have to end up tough when it’s time to be tough.”
Before that, there’s a little matter of Tuesday’s 6 p.m. home game against McNeese State.
, when Robichaux has his first shot at becoming the 52nd coach in NCAA Division I history and only the 17th active coach to reach 1,000 wins.
Fittingly, that shot comes against a Cowboy program where he recorded his first 263 coaching victories and became the winningest coach in his alma mater’s history.
“It’s a funny thing, I started at the school that’s coming in here Tuesday and that’s a unique thing,” Robichaux said. “To me it’s not that big a deal. My biggest concern is developing this young pitching staff. The only thing that 1,000 would mean really is that we got another win and that means we’re pitching good and playing good.
“I hope we can knock it out on Tuesday, because that means we’ve got a winning streak going.”