It’s on a six-game win streak, tying its longest of the season, and a lot of things went right for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette baseball team in that eight-day stretch.
Ragin’ Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux contributed that recent success to several factors, but he said that continuing the hot streak will provide a stiff challenge to a still-developing team. He said he knows that Tuesday’s battle with in-state rival Southeastern Louisiana adds to that.
“Those wins won’t do us any good this week,” Robichaux said as his team prepared for Tuesday’s 6:05 p.m. contest at M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field. “SLU is a very good baseball team. They’re sitting on top of their league, and they’re playing well.”
Both the Cajuns (21-13) and Lions (26-11) played rare April nonconference series last weekend. UL-Lafayette stepped out of Sun Belt Conference play with a three-game sweep of Jackson State. Southeastern traveled far in its non-Southland Conference weekend and lost two of three against Utah in Salt Lake City.
Both series could easily have been different.
The Cajuns rallied to force extra innings before winning Saturday’s rain-delayed opener 7-6 on a walk-off Nick Thurman base hit. Outfielder Kyle Clement hit for the team’s first cycle in a quarter-century in a 15-2 nightcap win. And the Cajuns trailed 2-0 in the seventh before exploding for a 7-2 Sunday victory.
“We were fortunate enough to get those games in,” Robichaux said. “We had a come-from-behind win and had some close games. Our defense has clamped down, and our base-running mistakes have gotten fewer. Those have been our Achilles’ heels, because we don’t have the firepower to get run out of an inning by a base-running mistake. And we have to get our freshman pitchers off the field when we can.”
The Lions could easily have taken the series over the Utes after coming back to take a 3-2 lead in Sunday’s final inning on Daniel Midyett’s two-run triple. But Utah countered with two runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win.
The Lions and Cajuns will go with pitchers who provided a big spark in midweek appearances last week. Cajuns junior right-hander Eric Carter (1-1, 2.89), who had thrown only 2.1 innings all season, struck out 11 and checked Southern on five hits over seven innings in a 14-1 win over the Jaguars on Wednesday in Baton Rouge.
“The chart showed that they (Southern) struggled against right-handed velocity, and Eric’s got a very good fastball,” Robichaux said. “What he did so well was he got strike one, strike two: He got ahead in the count. He set a good tempo on the road for us. And from there, the hitters did a good job.”
Southeastern got a solid performance from junior right-hander Pat Cashman (3-3, 4.18) in Tuesday’s 12-2 home win over South Alabama. Cashman, who had struggled in two previous outings, took his second win over the Jaguars, allowing one earned run and scattering seven hits in six innings. Just like the Cajuns bats did against the Jaguars, the Lions offense provided plenty support in a 16-hit attack.
Butler, Milhorn still out
UL-Lafayette could be without the services of regular weekend starter Greg Milhorn for an extended period after the senior right-hander pulled a groin early in Saturday’s second game against Jackson State. Milhorn left in the third inning after two perfect frames, but freshman Wyatt Marks came on to pitch six innings of two-hit ball.
“The day after, it calmed down and looked much better than we thought,” Robichaux said of the groin pull. “That does take awhile to heal up, so it’s not going to be a weekend thing. They started treating him aggressively when he came out, so we’ll see how he recovers. That’s a tough area for a pitcher.”
If Milhorn can’t return to the weekend rotation, Robichaux said Sunday starter and freshman Evan Guillory would move up to Saturday. Robichaux said no decision for Sunday has been reached. He said that Marks would be a possibility for that role.
Dylan Butler ran into the right-field wall in the first inning of last Tuesday’s 6-5 win over Houston and left that game with an apparent wrist injury. He was held out the rest of the week for precautionary reasons.
“He banged into the wall pretty hard,” Robichaux said. “He’s back to swinging on the tee a little. He’ll probably hit this week for sure and possibly get released to play (Tuesday). He’ll be back on the weekend for sure.”
Back to league play
The Cajuns return to Sun Belt play Friday-Sunday in a three-game series at Texas State in San Marcos, Texas. Texas State is 17-17-1 for the season, 9-6 in league play, one-half game ahead of UL-Lafayette (8-6).
“They’re a unique team,” Robichaux said. “They gear up for the weekend. We’ve played good on the road, and we have to take that on the road again and win that series.”
The Cajuns go into the week leading the Sun Belt in pitching with a team 3.45 earned run average, just ahead of South Alabama’s 3.48. ... Junior shortstop Blake Trahan, whose school-record-tying 23-game hit streak was snapped in Saturday’s nightcap, is third in the Sun Belt in hitting (.366) and second in on-base percentage (.485) … Senior designated hitter Tyler Girouard went 11-for-19 in last week’s five wins despite going 0-for-4 on Sunday … Tuesday’s game is Strike Out Autism night at Moore Field, with pregame activities focusing on autism awareness … The Cajuns were treated to a crawfish boil Monday evening.