When UL-Lafayette takes the field Wednesday night for a home game against Nicholls State, it will be without Tony Robichaux.
The 24-year Ragin’ Cajuns coach received a two-game suspension notice from the Sun Belt Conference early Tuesday, fallout from his ejection during Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Wright State.
Robichaux was tossed in the seventh inning for arguing the reversal of a call that turned an apparent two-run home run off the bat of Daniel Lahare into a double.
Replays showed that Robichaux had a valid argument, but Tuesday he was more concerned that his 2-5 team went scoreless in that inning despite the reversal. After the call change, the next three UL-Lafayette hitters were retired on two strikeouts and a fly ball.
“We have runners at second and third and no outs and we swing at all breaking balls in the dirt,” he said. “That’s not controlled aggressiveness. I get ejected, the crowd was up, the team was up and the hitters jumped in there and they were up. Now that’s the worst thing you could possible want, and their pitchers used that against them.
“That’s uncontrolled and that’s not good. That’s a learned, trained response. I appreciate them getting up there and wanting to kill the next pitch, but you have to learn how to throttle that back.”
The Cajuns will try to find a consistent hitting attack against the Colonels when they wrap up a four-game homestand at 6 p.m. Wednesday. After that contest, UL-Lafayette will head to a major early-season test in the Shriners College Classic at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, where they will face Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky in Friday-Sunday games.
“Nicholls has gotten off to a rough start,” Robichaux said of the 1-6 Colonels squad that lost three games in a Corpus Christi tournament over the weekend. “But we know we have to be ready for that game. After that, we have three very tough SEC teams to contend with, so we have a lot of things to deal with.”
Those things include improving on a team .174 batting average and the continued absence of their top battery in pitcher Hogan Harris and catcher Handsome Monica to injury.
Harris is still sidelined with an oblique injury and likely won’t see action until next weekend’s home series against South Alabama, while Monica is still out for an undetermined period with a sprained knee dating back to the season opener at Texas.
“We’re going to back Hogan out this weekend for safety sake,” Robichaux said. “We don’t want that to turn into a true tear. When you have something in a twisting area and you’ve got a violent thrower, a 95 mph guy, you have to let it rest and not turn it into more than it is. He’s a guy that’s lining up to go in the major league draft and you don’t want it to turn into something like a real arm injury.”
Harris’ absence means that the Cajuns’ pitching rotation is unsettled for the entire week, and Robichaux said he and his staff won’t decide on the weekend possibilities until after Wednesday night. Left-hander Colten Schmidt (0-0, 3.00), who threw last week’s midweek loss at Southeastern Louisiana, may be pulled back to a weekend role.
The lack of hitting is more of a concern. The Cajuns did collect 11 hits in Sunday’s loss, but prior to that UL-Lafayette hadn’t had over six hits in any of its first six games. They’ll enter Wednesday’s game with an anemic .254 slugging mark.
“I think our approach is getting better,” Robichaux said of his team’s offensive attack. “You have to watch out in hitting, because a guy can hit four balls on the nose and go 0 for 4. We have to collectively start growing one through nine and taking every at bat personally. That’s why I like what I’ve seen from a guy like Lahare, he has that kind of approach.”
Robichaux said that those issues were more important than his absence for the Wednesday and Friday games, which were mandated by an NCAA rule that requires ejected coaches to immediately leave the field.
“If I come out after that game and I start blaming everything on those umpires, it gives our guys a way out,” he said. “It gives them something to blame. We’ve already got so much low-hanging fruit. Two of our best leaders are off the field, and Hogan’s hurt and we’re down to one catcher, we’ve already got enough low-hanging fruit for the rest of the year. I can’t start blaming it on umpires or injuries, we have to continue to work, get our hitters on the same page and score some runs.”