LAFAYETTE — Distractions, distractions, distractions.
Louisiana-Lafayette’s baseball team will celebrate “Ron Guidry Weekend” Friday through Sunday, honoring the Cajuns legend with a series of activities.
Sunday will feature the team’s annual salute to Mother’s Day, with dozens of moms of Cajuns players throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the finale of the Sun Belt Conference series against Appalachian State.
Lourdes Regional Medical Center celebrates “Strike Out a Stroke” all weekend, making donations for every strikeout by a UL-Lafayette pitcher. There’s also an auto show in the parking lot adjacent to M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Finals? The squad’s right in the middle of testing to end the spring semester.
Add in the fact that the Cajuns (29-16, 14-7 Sun Belt) are facing the team with the worst overall record in the league in the visiting Mountaineers (13-31, 8-16), and conditions are ripe for a less-than-focused performance by a Cajuns team that has won its past six series, five of them in Sun Belt play.
But don’t say that to coach Tony Robichaux.
“Everything that’s going on is an alibi. That’s all excuses,” Robichaux said as the Cajuns prepared for Friday’s 6 p.m. series opener. “If the Mother’s Day stuff or the Ron Guidry things throw you out of whack, you’re not going to be a champion anyway. The first thing we have to take care of is Friday night. I think they’ll be ready, but if something happens there will be no excuses.”
The Cajuns are in second place in the Sun Belt standings with nine games remaining, trailing South Alabama by four games and with a pivotal series in Mobile coming next weekend. To have a reasonable chance of catching the Jaguars for the regular-season title, UL-Lafayette has to do no worse than take a seventh straight series win.
The Mountaineers are fighting to secure a spot in the Sun Belt tournament, which takes the top eight teams. App State currently stands 10th with six games to go, but is one game out of ninth and another half-game out of the coveted No. 8 spot.
“Each weekend from here on is important,” said Robichaux, whose team did not play a mid-week game this week because of finals. “We have three important games that we have to take care of. We got them a little rest and got school done and out of the way, now we’re going to try to focus on baseball the rest of the way.”
The Cajuns are No. 19 in the RPI listings entering the weekend, tops in the Sun Belt (South Alabama is next at No. 33), while Appalachian State checks in at a conference-low No. 249.
That 249 figure is nearly twice as high as UL-Lafayette’s team batting average over a recent four-game stretch. Heading into last weekend’s series at UT-Arlington, the Cajuns were hitting .134 over their previous four games and had scored seven runs in that streak, losing three of those four.
But over the weekend, UL-Lafayette battered UTA pitching with 45 hits in three games, including 15 on Saturday in a 6-4 win and a season-high 21 in Sunday’s 19-6 mercy-rule victory.
“We bounced back after a tough week,” Robichaux said. “Sunday was the best we’d swung it. We started driving the baseball again and that’s a good sign. We’re going to need that. It was nice leaving there on Sunday knowing that our hitters swung it well one through nine.”
Senior outfielder Brian Mills was one of those, collecting nine hits in the three games and upping his batting average from .267 to .305. Fellow senior Stefan Trosclair hit for the cycle in the Sunday game, only the third such instance in Cajuns history, and first baseman Alex Pinero had six RBIs.
UL-Lafayette will go with its normal weekend pitching rotation, with sophomore left-hander Gunner Leger (5-3, 2.63 ERA) starting Friday’s opener against Appalachian State lefty Bobby Hampton (1-6, 6.58). Sophomore right-hander Wyatt Marks (3-5, 5.14) will go in Saturday’s 6 p.m. game against right-hander Breydan Gorham (2-4, 4.68), and freshman right-hander Nick Lee (6-1, 3.22) gets the ball in Sunday’s noon finale against left-hander Colin Schmid (1-6, 5.62).
A star off the field, too
Cajuns closer Dylan Moore was named to a College Sports Information Directors Association academic all-district team, the organization announced Thursday. The teams recognize the nation’s top student-athletes for their performances on the field and in the classroom.
Moore, a sophomore who carries a 4.0 GPA in political science with an emphasis in pre-law, was named to the District 6 academic all-district first team. (District 6 covers schools in Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.)
Moore is 4-1 with 11 saves and a 0.53 ERA in 34 innings.