LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux is hopeful a boost from the caboose will give his team a lift as it nears postseason play.
The bottom of the Cajuns’ order is mired in a slump as the regular season draws to a close, and the offense has suffered because of it.
“Right now, we’re not swinging the bat real well,” Robichaux said. “We’ve got to get some guys going, get some guys hot hopefully at the bottom of our order and help us out throughout this run. Our top’s been really good; it’s really been our bottom. That’s where some guys have got to get going and get hot for us to have a run.”
The Cajuns scored just 31 runs while losing four of their past six games — and that includes a 20-6 win at Appalachian State. In the losses, the Cajuns scored one, four, zero and three runs.
During that stretch, the bottom four hitters in the lineup have combined to go 20-for-89 (a .225 batting average) with 24 strikeouts.
Robichaux sounded confident that the bottom of the order would be able to turn things around, especially since it’s full of experienced players like Greg Davis, Nick Thurman and Dylan Butler.
One additional option could be left-handed hitter Brenn Conrad, who Robichaux said might platoon at third base against right-handers. Conrad drove in the winning run in Sunday’s game against South Alabama from the sixth spot in the order.
Robichaux isn’t necessarily looking for the bottom of the order to be filled by .300 hitters, but the Cajuns can’t afford to strand 10 base runners in a one-run game — as they did against South Alabama on Saturday, when the bottom of their lineup went 2-for-16 with six strikeouts.
“We don’t need a lot,” Robichaux said. “The big thing we really need is to answer the bell when it rings. There’s an old saying that you want to have your best at-bat at the most critical time of the game. We’re not asking them to be 4-for-4.”
One player who could help the Cajuns’ suddenly stagnant offense down the stretch might be freshman Kennon Fontenot, and Robichaux moved him to the outfield to give him a chance at consistent playing time.
Fontenot came to the Cajuns as a highly regarded infielder out of Barbe, but he was besieged by errors in the field early and played his way to the bench.
“Well, he’s a freshman,” Robichaux said. “That’s it; end of story. That’s what freshmen do. … Freshmen take time.”
The game came a bit too fast, Robichaux said, and then he lost confidence. But his faith in his bat remained. Fontenot ignited the Cajuns’ eighth-inning rally in Sunday’s 3-2 win with a one-out, pinch-hit single.
“He believes he can hit,” Robichaux said. “He’s lost no confidence there.”
With the Cajuns’ infield set, Robichaux moved Fontenot to the outfield, and he has liked what he has seen there so far.
“Our issue really is finding somebody — one more outfielder, one more hitter at the bottom of the order that can not just pinch-hit but can stay in the game and get four to five at-bats,” Robichaux said. “That’s kind of why we’ve moved him out to left field, and right now he’s been looking good in the outfield.”
On the way
Senior right-hander Greg Milhorn was on the shelf for nearly a month after injuring his groin in an early April start against Jackson State, but he impressed Robichaux this weekend in his first outing since his injury.
“He looked really good the other day,” Robichaux said. “In fact, that’s the best I’ve seen him, to be honest with you. He was 93 to 94 (mph with his fastball) with some sink and some run and some movement, and he didn’t feel anything in his groin at all.”
Milhorn will continue to work out of the bullpen this week, but Robichaux aims to build up his endurance to the point where he can start in the conference tournament next week.