LAFAYETTE — There’s a word Louisiana-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux frequently reaches for when describing an excellent or poor hitting performance.
If a hitter goes out and bangs two doubles off the wall, he’s usually going to the plate with arrogance. If he goes up to the plate and watches a couple strikes blow by, he’s usually not going to the plate with arrogance.
The Cajuns, currently, are not an arrogant club.
Heading into this weekend’s Sun Belt Conference series against UT-Arlington (22-20, 8-10), the Cajuns (27-15) have just 16 hits in their past four games. In those games, they’ve tallied a .139 batting average and have scored a combined seven runs. Unsurprisingly, the Cajuns are 1-3 in their past four games, with the only win coming in a 1-0 shutout.
“They’ve got to man up,” Robichaux said. “It’s easy. Don’t tap-dance around it. You’ve got to man up. Toughen up and man up; that’s it. That’s what they’ve got to do.”
Robichaux had a similar sentiment earlier this season when it came to his defense after his team committed four errors in a midweek loss to LSU.
“You’ve got to make the plays,” Robichaux said after the LSU game. “You’ve got to man up when it’s time to man up.”
The Cajuns responded by tightening up on defense, committing just four errors in their next eight games, seven of which were wins.
For his lineup to respond in kind, Robichaux said he’s looking for someone to step up and provide a spark. Or, more accurately, provide some arrogance.
He thinks he might’ve found the guy to do that after watching Alex Pinero clobber a two-run pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s loss to Louisiana Tech.
Pinero has started only two games since the calendar flipped to April, and lately he has mostly served as a late-inning defensive replacement when the Cajuns are protecting a lead. But Robichaux said he will likely get the start in Friday’s series opener, moving Stefan Trosclair to second base.
“He’s going to go out Friday and give us some arrogance,” Robichaux said. “We lack that. The one thing Pinero has got is some arrogance. He might have a few holes in his swing, but he’s got arrogance. That’s what we lack as hitters, we have no arrogance, we have no threat about us.
“We will get him in the lineup Friday, and hopefully that can spread. That’s what happens. When you pitch bad, it’s contagious. When you hit bad it’s contagious. What we’re fighting right now is something that’s contagious.
“What we’ve got to do is get it going again. A couple hitters here and there get going, I really believe this, the rest of them will jump on.”
One player who has shown the capability of infecting a lineup with good vibes is Trosclair, though that hasn’t been the case this year.
Trosclair carried the Cajuns through the stretch run last season, hitting 15 of his 16 home runs after April. But while he’s shown a sign here and there of breaking out, he’s mostly been mired in a season-long slump, especially when it comes to the big types of knocks he delivered late last season.
Trosclair is hitting .250 for the season, but his game-changing swings are missing. He has 18 hits in his last 17 games, but only three of those hits have gone for extra bases.
He hasn’t been the only one in the lineup who has struggled to find the gaps in the outfield. The Cajuns are slugging just .389 as a team, ranking No. 6 in the Sun Belt and No. 146 nationally. It’s 28 points lower than last year’s team and also the lowest slugging percentage by a Cajuns team since the 2012 squad slugged .363.
Robichaux was asked after his team picked up just four hits in a loss to Louisiana Tech if there was a “book” on the Cajuns hitters, meaning some flaw throughout the lineup that pitchers had learned to exploit. Robichaux scoffed at that notion. He believes it’s all in his team’s frame of mind.
“There’s no book (on us). I don’t think we’re tough enough at the (batter’s) box,” Robichaux said. “We’ve got to get tough at the box. Our approach has to get better, we’ve got to get tougher in the box. That’s it at the end of the day. You’ve got to get in the box and throw down. I don’t care what previously happened.
“So what if you haven’t been scoring runs. That shouldn’t have anything to do with today’s ballgame. Get in the box and compete. That’s what we’ve got to get back to; get in the box, throw it down and compete.”