LAFAYETTE — For the first time this year, Louisiana-Lafayette’s baseball team shouldered a loss when they boarded a bus Sunday.
The Ragin’ Cajuns dropped a 5-4 decision at new Sun Belt Conference member Texas-Arlington in the final game of a three-game series Sunday, suffering their first road loss after opening the season with a national-best 16 straight road wins.
To compound the aggravation, the Cajuns took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth in their first late-game blown lead of the year.
They still won their ninth straight series this season, they still hold the nation’s best record and the most wins, and they still lead the Sun Belt by three full games with four series to go. But Sunday’s disappointment was still obvious.
“When you lose the last game of the series, it hurts a little more,” UL-Lafayette associate head coach Anthony Babineaux said. “It makes that road trip a lot longer ... I had a pit in my stomach until we got halfway home. Plus the way it ended up, we’d have preferred they score five in the first inning and us not catch up instead of having that disgusted feeling.”
The Cajuns (36-5), ranked second or third depending on the poll, get a chance to rid themselves of that feeling Tuesday when they host in-state foe McNeese State (20-18) in the second meeting of the year between the I-10 rivals. First pitch is 6:05 p.m. at M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
The game is the first of four home games this week for UL-Lafayette, with Texas State coming to Moore Field for a Sun Belt weekend series Friday through Sunday.
“We’ve been very fortunate to sweep on the road a few times this year,” Babineaux said. “The goal going into every weekend is to win the series, especially on the road because that’s very tough to do. To have our first road loss some on Easter Sunday, with Easter falling late this year, that’s a testament to the tremendous job these guys have done.”
The Cajuns staff did provide the team a reward. The squad attended the Class AA Frisco Roughriders’ game against Corpus Christi on Thursday before the series and went to the Texas Rangers-Chicago White Sox game Saturday at Globe Life Park after their second straight 9-5 win over the Mavericks.
The team also took a tour of the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Friday.
“With all this club has done, we wanted to be able to take advantage when we’re in a city that has those opportunities,” Babineaux said. “All of our guys aspire to be there (pro ball), so whenever we can get them in front of that and let them see it, that’s good for them. It made for a great weekend.”
The Cajuns will get back to work and play nine games in a 13-day stretch, including their final three midweek games, beginning Tuesday. The visiting Cowboys have lost five in a row and are 1-7 in a stretch that began with a 14-8 loss to UL-Lafayette in Lake Charles 13 days ago.
Since that loss, McNeese dropped two of three at home to Northwestern State and was swept by Central Arkansas last weekend in a pair of Southland Conference series.
Senior right-hander Matt Hicks (4-0, 2.25 ERA) will get his third start for UL-Lafayette. He is the Cajuns’ career leader in saves. McNeese’s starting pitcher will be senior right-hander Michael Desabrais (0-1, 4.99). Desabrais also started the previous game between the teams, giving up four hits and six runs while walking four and striking out three.
McNeese held a 7-6 lead after six innings in that game before the Cajuns scored six runs in the eighth. UL-Lafayette also used late-game explosions to spur wins Friday and Saturday over UT-Arlington.
“For some reason, we didn’t get a lot going off their starters,” Babineaux said of the UTA series. “We hit some balls hard that didn’t fall. But the pattern we’ve had all season long, when we can get to somebody’s bullpen, we can make a pretty good mess of it. We really like Matt (Hicks) out there. ... He does a great job of setting a tempo and working quick. The games he’s started, he’s been really good.”