MONROE — The Warhawks and the elements threw everything they had at Louisiana-Lafayette, but the Cajuns didn’t wilt as they swept Louisiana-Monroe for the fifth consecutive series.
The Cajuns (34-20, 18-11 Sun Belt) coughed up early leads only to mount a come back in both games of a Saturday doubleheader against UL-Monroe (25-29, 12-18) — a 5-4 win in the first game and a 6-4 win in the finale.
Then there was the rain and the lightning. Coach Tony Robichaux said many times this season that he wanted his young team to get “weathered,” but he probably didn’t mean the more than six hours of weather delays the teams endured just to get a full series in.
But now that it’s happened?
“We got a lot out of today, and some mental toughness training,” Robichaux said. “You can’t design this right here. They came back on us, we could’ve had a chance to say, ‘You know what? What are we playing for? Let’s just go ahead and sit this out.’ But they fought back and got it done; that’s the biggest thing I’m proud of.”
The win in the nightcap secured the No. 3 seed in next week’s Sun Belt tournament.
The key to clinching that seed was a rediscovery of clutch hitting that eluded the Cajuns in the weeks before the ULM series.
All five of the Cajuns runs that crossed the plate in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader came with two outs, and so did the critical first two runs in the late game. For the series, the Cajuns hit 15-for-39 with 10 RBIs with two outs.
“To come here and hit like that with two outs is huge for us because we’re going to need that,” Robichaux said. “Everybody is going to have to be feeling good about themselves.”
The Cajuns and Warhawks battled in a seesawing first contest that included three lead changes, but the Cajuns kept finding the big hit.
The last few came in the seventh inning, when Kyle Clement and Stefan Trosclair connected on back-to-back hits to break a 3-3 tie and give the Cajuns a two-run lead.
UL-Monroe picked up one more run in the eighth before Robichaux summoned freshman closer Dylan Moore to slam the door. Moore recorded four outs for his ninth save.
“He’s just rock solid,” Robichaux said.
The Warhawks were just as plucky in the second game.
Stefan Trosclair launched a two-out laser beam of a home run to give the Cajuns a two-run lead in the first inning of the second game, and it looked like it might just be enough the way Wyatt Marks was throwing.
The freshman right-hander worked through a 76-minute delay and was mowing down the Warhawks. He struck out six through four hitless innings. But then a second storm cell hit the Monroe area, shutting the game down for another 102 minutes.
“The first one we were able to work through; the second one got too dangerous for us with a freshman arm,” Robichaux said. “He had done enough for us with 51 pitches … so we went ahead and pulled him.”
ULM seized on the opportunity when play resumed, picking up two runs apiece off relievers Logan Stoelke and Greg Milhorn to take a 4-2 lead. But Clement and Trosclair came through again in a four-run seventh inning that paved the way to the sweep.
With nobody out and the bases loaded, Clement launched a deep sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field to cut the deficit to one run, and Trosclair erased it right after him by lining a two-run triple underneath a diving Warhawks centerfielder Nathan Pugh.
ULM tried to throw Trosclair out at third, but the ball sailed into the Cajuns dugout, allowing Trosclair to trot home.
Reagan Bazar fired a perfect ninth inning to record his first save.
The Cajuns could’ve finished as high as second in the conference, but inclement weather forced South Alabama and Troy to cancel the final two games of their series. Those teams finished first and second in the league.
The Cajuns have now won 16 consecutive games against UL-Monroe, which saw its tournament chances end with the loss in the finale.
The sweep capped an up-and-down regular season for the Cajuns, who hit peaks and valleys as they struggled to achieve the weathered status Robichaux was looking for. Maybe they’re getting hot at the right time.
“The longest win streak we had was seven games,” Robichaux said. “We need four (wins in the SBC tournament) to get it done over there (and) we’ve got three working right now, so who knows? It might be lucky seven.”