LAFAYETTE — If there was ever a time for the NCAA to switch to the new baseballs designed to boost what have been some sagging offensive numbers around college baseball, Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux hoped it would’ve been last year.
With the amount of sluggers he had on his 58-10 2014 team, a little extra theoretical oomph could’ve made a big difference.
“I wish we would’ve had this change last year with the home run hitters that we had. That would’ve been nice,” Robichaux said. “Now, we have a young pitching staff, and they changed the ball on them.
“It is what it is. We’ll see at the end of the year what it did offensively for teams.”
That being said, Robichaux isn’t about to let the new balls become an excuse for his team, particularly that young pitching staff.
“I think, if a guy can pitch, he can pitch,” Robichaux said. “Sometimes it’s a crutch or built-in excuse. We’re not real big on alibis. We want to respond to whatever comes our way. If it’s a change in the ball, we’ll respond.”
The same sentiment applies to the offense.
If any team were a candidate to actually take a step back in power numbers despite a new ball designed specifically to enhance them, it might be the Cajuns.
They hit 68 home runs and slugged .493 last season, both of which were the second-best figures nationally. But 48 of those long balls are gone thanks to graduation or the Major League Baseball draft.
Even with the added pop that’s supposed to come with the new baseballs, the Cajuns might have to manufacture runs differently in 2015.
That doesn’t matter much to Robichaux, who is quick to point out that change is constant in his sport, and the key to fielding a successful club is adapting to whatever tools are at your disposal.
“I still think that each year, whether you come off a good year or bad year, it’s a new year,” Robichaux said. “You have to work to build the offense around what you have. We’re going to do that. We’re going to take our personnel, and we’re going to get good at what we can do.”
The impact the new balls have on the game or the Cajuns offense likely won’t be fully determined until the season is over, but that doesn’t mean the traditionally offensive-minded club isn’t looking forward to what that impact may be.
“I’m glad,” new Cajuns hitting coach Jeremy Talbot said. “I’m an offensive guy. I think offense is exciting. You go to the College World Series now, and the ballpark is huge, the games are 2 to 1, I wish they could do something about that.
“A change or an adjustment needed to be made.”
Change hasn’t fazed the Cajuns before. When the NCAA switched to BBCOR bats for the 2010 season, the Cajuns kept chugging along with prolific power numbers while other teams floundered.
“When they went to BBCOR, everybody was in a panic,” Talbot said. “They said you had to play small ball, you had to play station to station, you had to play for one run an inning. I don’t believe that.
“The last two years here, it was really special. You had special teams, special players, it was a perfect storm the way it came together.”
The bats were designed to perform like wood bats and were aimed at normalizing some inflated offensive numbers. Now that another attempt at a normalizing change has been brought about, Robichaux just wants his players to keep steady.
“Everybody said that the bats were bad, and you couldn’t hit a home run,” Robichaux said.
“Well, last year’s team didn’t go out with that mindset and attitude, and that’s why they were so good. Hopefully, we can do the same with this year’s team.”