The pitching has been there, and the defense has been stellar.
Now, UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux wants his hitters to find some consistency.
That offense will get plenty of chances to do that this week when the Ragin’ Cajuns (28-19-1) play five games in six days ta M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field to wrap up their home schedule.
First up: Louisiana Tech at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“We’ve got to work on getting back to where we’re more consistent,” Robichaux said. “There’s three things you have to do in this game: You’ve got to pitch, you’ve got to play defense and you’ve got to score runs, in that order.
“Our defense has been phenomenal, and our pitching staff has been very good, but we have to get more consistent at the plate.”
The Cajuns lead the Sun Belt Conference in fielding with just 44 errors in 48 games. The pitching staff leads the nation in shutouts (nine) and ranks sixth nationally in strikeouts per game (9.8) and WHIP (1.17). Starting pitcher Gunner Leger and reliever Wyatt Marks both rank in the top five nationally in at least one pitching category.
As good as those numbers are, the Cajuns have still lost five of six heading into a week when they’ll also face McNeese on Wednesday and a three-game weekend series against Texas State.
The reason for their skid: a hitting attack that ranks near the bottom of the league — seventh in batting average (.268), eighth in homers and on-base percentage and ninth in scoring.
UL-Lafayette lost two of three at home to Georgia Southern last weekend while hitting .174 as a team. The Cajuns were hitting .194 through two games and had only four hits in Sunday’s 9-1 loss, none after the fifth inning.
“We have to get some guys to get hot the rest of the way,” Robichaux said. “We can’t hit .194 going into Sunday. If that’s what we’re going to do, we have to hold the score down. And both these teams (Tech and McNeese) swing the bat well.”
That Cajuns offense took another hit over the weekend when center fielder and leadoff hitter Ishmael Edwards suffered a fractured thumb. Edwards, the team’s second-leading hitter (.302) and the top hit-producer, will likely miss the rest of the season, but Robichaux said he may be available for pinch-run duties.
Backup center fielder Zach LaFleur stepped up by reaching base in all four plate appearances Sunday, including his first extra-base hit with a fifth-inning double. But other than that hit and a solo homer by shortstop Brad Antchak in Sunday’s second inning, UL-Lafayette managed only two other ground-ball singles.
“We’re facing adversity and we’ve lost one of our best players,” Robichaux said, “but you can’t cry over spilled milk. You have to move on. Sometimes when you hit a wall, you have to learn to climb it. A lot of teams face adversity, but good teams make it look easy to overcome that.”
The Cajuns dropped a 13-inning 6-5 decision in mid-March to the Bulldogs (32-15), who have won seven of eight. UL-Lafayette beat McNeese 3-1 in Lake Charles in March, when three pitchers combined to two-hit the Cowboys.
Junior right-hander Evan Guillory (3-2, 3.59) will start Tuesday's game for UL-Lafayette. Tech will counter with senior right-hander Cameron Linck (3-1, 3.78).
The Cajuns will hold pregame graduation ceremonies Friday night for players completing their degree requirements this year. Senior members of the squad will be honored Saturday night and Sunday’s home finale will include a Mother’s Day celebration with the moms of players throwing out ceremonial first pitches. ... Vic Gilchrist, known to Cajun fans as “The Peanut Man” and who roasted peanuts at Moore Field for more than 30 years, died Sunday night at 95. Gilchrist, a Korean War veteran, was honored last season for his years of service but suffered a stroke in the offseason. Nephew Daniel Navarre took over on-site roasting and sales this season at the newly expanded stadium. “It’s not about the peanuts; it’s about the peanut man,” Robichaux said. “We’ve got a new spot in the stadium that will still be his, and that will make sure his family knows how special he was to us.”