LAFAYETTE — In the eighth inning of UL-Lafayette’s 6-3 win against UNO this week, Blake Trahan made another one of those plays that people have grown to expect from an All-American shortstop.
You know, the ones that come with a high-degree of difficulty that he looks like he could complete in his sleep?
“(Trahan) makes all those plays look so easy,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “A lot of what he’s doing is not easy, but he makes it look easy. He’s a guy as a coach, a coaching staff and pitchers, you really appreciate.”
Ranging to his left, nearly behind second base, Trahan was tracking the ball on what was already a difficult play. Then the ball took one of those hops that sometimes make infielders swear the ball has a brain, slightly changing direction and bounding over Trahan’s head.
Though he was running at full speed, Trahan shifted his momentum and plucked the ball in a fluid movement before gathering himself to throw a strike to first base for the second out of the inning.
Just another day in the life of Blake Trahan.
Or, more accurately, another day in the life of Blake Trahan lately.
Despite playing arguably the most demanding defensive position on the diamond, Trahan has committed only one error in his last 31 games. “It’s just slowing the game down again,” Trahan said. “I made a couple fundamental adjustments and slowed the game down. That was really all it took, and it’s been working.”
The game wasn’t going so slow at the beginning of the season when Trahan struggled in the field — not just by his standards, but by those of most Division I baseball players.
He committed six errors on 67 chances in his first 13 games, giving him a .910 fielding percentage. It was a small sample size, but it checked in about 50 percent worse than his career average.
Robichaux chalked it up to unfamiliarity.
“I think (Trahan) last year, looking to the left and looking to the right, he was so calm because he had (third baseman Ryan) Leonards, who had a heck of a year, and (second baseman Jace Conrad) who was rock-solid, so he was rock-solid,” Robichaux said. “This year, we start out, and I think he got spooked a little bit because he has more territory to cover.”
At the start of the year, Trahan had a bit of a revolving door to his left and right. Working at third base were Tyler Girouard, Brenn Conrad and Joe Robbins; working at second base were Conrad and Kennon Fontenot.
That was done out of necessity early in the season, when second baseman Stefan Trosclair was limited to designated hitter duties as he recovered from offseason surgery to fix a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
But when Trosclair was cleared to play, it set the foundation for some infield familiarity. Trosclair has started the past 21 games at second base, while Evan Powell has manned the hot corner in seven of the past nine games.
“When you can trust the guy to the left and right of you that they’ve got some territory that they’re going to cover, it allows you to relax as an infielder,” Robichaux said. “Now you can cover extra territory on your own instead of having to do it.”
The stability and trust built by the continuity has helped Trahan.
“It’s a comfort thing,” Trahan said. “Having guys that you know are going to make plays around you really helps, and they definitely do (make plays). Stefan’s been playing really well, and Evan Powell’s been playing really well at third.”
The team appears to have followed Trahan’s lead in turning the corner defensively. Once sitting near the bottom of the league in fielding percentage, the Cajuns have steadily improved as the year has progressed to where they now rank fifth.
They enter this weekend’s series against Appalachian State having not committed an error in the last 41 innings — even as Trahan continues to pull a rabbit out of his glove in the infield.