LAFAYETTE — The countdown clock has begun to tick.
The Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team practiced as a full squad for the first time in 2015 Thursday, meaning they’re officially a month away from the start of the season.
“It’s good to get going again; we’re very close to opening day,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “But our season’s a long season. You want to be ready for opening day, for sure, but you also want to make sure that you get better as the season goes on.”
The Cajuns were able to see a hint of the team that will line up for its Feb. 15 opening day in San Antonio during its fall camp, but the open of spring practices officially signals that the regular season is drawing near.
“It’s exactly a month before we play our first game, and this starts the countdown,” said star shortstop Blake Trahan. “We talked about that, and I feel that everybody went and worked hard over the break.
“Everybody’s already polished up. We’ve just got some team stuff to take care of and we’ll be fine.”
But Robichaux still sees plenty of places to polish as the Cajuns move closer to opening day.
Robichaux used the words “inexperienced,” “young” and “freshmen” 20 times in a 15-minute postpractice interview Thursday. He’s got to figure out a way to replace his entire weekend rotation as well as seven regular players from a team that won 58 games a year ago.
That doesn’t signal that he’s not confident in this team, but he acknowledged that the Cajuns are likely going to have to do things a little differently with such a young team this season, especially on the mound.
Graduation and the Major League Baseball draft took a combined 47 wins from last year’s pitching staff, which included three veteran starters that Robichaux could count on to go deep into games in a weekend series.
“As a coach, I only had to manage three-to-four innings a weekend,” Robichaux said.
“Now, I’m going to have to manage all 27 innings, because we don’t have those kind of arms yet.”
More importantly, graduation and the draft took a knowledge of how to manage a college baseball game.
The Cajuns have 11 freshman pitchers on their roster, and Robichaux said there’s a steep learning curve between a high school team that has one three-hole hitter, and a college team that has a lineup full of them.
“Development is necessary, but it can be ugly,” Robichaux said. “You have to be patient. What’s tough about good athletes, good teams, is that they start to make something that’s hard look easy. Last year’s team made what happened look easy.
“Don’t ever think for one instant that what they were doing last year was easy. … This team isn’t going to make everything always look easy, because they’re inexperienced.”
Robichaux and his players aren’t concerned about what happened last year, though. All parties said they’ve put the Cajuns’ record season behind them.
With Thursday’s practice in the books, the team is ready to figure out what it is this season. Thirty days remain until it starts to find out.
“We just have to make sure the guys understand that last year was last year, and we’ve got to start from scratch,” Robichaux said. “We’re going to have to forge ourselves into a good baseball team. We’re going to need to play to get there because we’re so young.
“You’re going to have to worry about it now, because we’re so young.
“There’s only one way to get old, and that’s to go out there and play, let these guys grow up.
“That’s what we’re going to be doing, the only thing we can do is a coaching staff is try to be patient with them.”