For the first time this season, UL-Lafayette’s baseball team faces a five-game week beginning Tuesday, and none of the opponents will be pushovers.
The Ragin’ Cajuns host Houston and Tulane in Tuesday and Wednesday games at M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field, and then go on the road for the first time in Sun Belt Conference play to meet Troy’s Trojans.
Houston (13-5) has won five in a row after sweeping Alabama State over the weekend. Tulane (6-13) struggled early but has now won three of its past four, including taking two of three from Columbia in a weekend series. And Troy (11-7) is tied with the Cajuns and several other teams for the early lead in the Sun Belt race while winning four of its past five.
“Houston and Tulane will really tax our pitching staff a lot for the first time,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “But you also want to be ready on Friday night. You have to try to win a championship on the weekend and also manage the RPI in the midweek games.”
UL-Lafayette (11-6) has balanced that well, having not lost back-to-back games this season. But the Cajuns have not played five games in six days, much less the 10-games-in-13-days gauntlet they will face with another five-game week on the horizon next week.
“That definitely means you can’t live in the past because you have so many games to worry about,” said Robichaux, whose team used two strong pitching performances and a ninth-inning squeeze bunt to take a 4-3 Sunday win over Appalachian State and take a series win to open Sun Belt play.
It also means that Robichaux will likely use several arms that have seen limited action in the Tuesday and Wednesday games. Freshman right-hander Jack Burk (0-2, 3.46) threw five strong innings at Louisiana Tech last Wednesday and left with a 5-2 lead only to watch his team fall 6-5 in 13 innings, and he will start against the Cougars on Tuesday.
“He had a great start in a hostile environment,” Robichaux said of Burk, who played at Jesuit. “Now he gets to come back and hopefully have a good start in a good environment. He pitched against a good team last week, and he’s going to do that again, that’s what he needs. He pitched with intent Wednesday, and when you pitch with intent, half the battle’s over.
“We actually played better Wednesday in a loss (at Tech) than we did Sunday in a win. Sometimes you can play good, and the game doesn’t allow you to win.”
Wednesday’s mound crew is anyone’s guess, and Robichaux has already said that a lot of pitchers could see action against the Green Wave depending on who gets called on Tuesday. One who will definitely throw at some point Tuesday or Wednesday is closer Dylan Moore (0-0, 2.53 ERA), who needs one save to become the Sun Belt’s all-time career leader. Moore saw no action against the Mountaineers.
“We got two out of three and didn’t use our closer,” Robichaux said. “That’s big because we want to try to trim some work off D-Mo. We’d love to be scoring more runs every game, but if we can get rid of people nickel and diming us in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, we’ll be able to keep him fresh.”
The Cajuns only dropped one notch in their two highest poll rankings after a 2-2 week and are 15th in the Baseball America and 16th in the D1 Baseball polls.
Houston is unranked in the polls but is 15th in this week’s RPI figures and has been as high as 11th. The Cougars also have one of the nation’s hottest hitters in shortstop Jake Scheiner, who had six homers in four games last week and went 13-for-16 at the plate along with 15 RBIs. He was named one of Collegiate Baseball magazine’s national Players of the Week.
The Cougars will throw sophomore lefthander Trey Cumbie (2-0), who leads UH with a 1.33 ERA in four midweek starts.