LAFAYETTE — With the halfway mark of the season rapidly approaching, there are a few items that need to be ticked off Louisiana-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux’s checklist.
Chiefly among them: Getting his team to figure out how to consistently win away from M.L. Tigue Moore Field, something it has not been able to figure out this season.
The Cajuns (15-9) will get ample opportunity to remedy that in the next couple of weeks. Starting with Tuesday’s road game against Nicholls State (10-14), 10 of the Cajuns’ next 13 games will be played on the road.
“This is one of the things we have to solve, is getting to become a better road team,” Robichaux said. “So I’m glad we’re getting back out on the road. ... We get that opportunity in 10 of the next 13.”
After Tuesday’s game against the Colonels, the Cajuns will take a three-game road trip to face Arkansas State. They’ll return to face Northwestern State next week, then hit the road again for a three-game series against Georgia Southern. They follow that up with a week that features road games against UNO and Southeastern.
It’s a sink-or-swim test for a team that has struggled mightily away from its home field, where it is 11-2.
What Robichaux is looking for is the same approach his team has used with success at home: solid pitching backed up by solid defense with just enough offense to get the win.
While the Cajuns pitching efforts have been largely solid on the road, the other two parts of the formula haven’t always been there, and the team has struggled.
In 11 games either as visitors or at a neutral site, the Cajuns are just 4-7. They are averaging just a bit better than three runs per game away from home, while opponents are scoring about 4.5 runs per game — one of which, on average, is unearned.
There have been signs that the Cajuns were starting to break out of their road woes a few weeks ago when they picked up 28 hits and committed just one error while taking two games of a three-game series in Troy, Alabama. But they followed that up with a clunker against LSU last week in the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic.
That game featured a pair of the problems that have hounded the Cajuns away from home this season. They picked up just six hits against LSU’s pitching staff and made four errors in the field.
“We were in a winnable game there, but we gave them too many free things that ended up costing us the game,” Robichaux said.
The Colonels have had their own share of struggles this season. They’ve gotten off to a 2-7 mark in conference play, and enter Tuesday’s contest as losers of four straight games.
Like the Cajuns, they’ve been much better at their home field, where they have a 9-7 mark compared with a 1-7 record at away and neutral sites.
The Cajuns will once again send right-hander Evan Guillory (1-3, 3.91 ERA) to the mound for the midweek game. The sophomore right-hander has pitched only on the road this season and has not been the beneficiary of either much run support or defensive help behind him.
Nicholls State will counter with left-hander Mike Hanchar (0-3, 5.40), who has thrown well after being roughed up in a couple of outings against Southeastern Conference schools Alabama and Mississippi State.
Freshman Ryne Ray was one of the bigger names in the Cajuns’ well-received 2015 signing class, but he has yet to play after a knee injury in the offseason.
That might change soon, Robichaux said.
“We’ll see how he feels (Monday),” Robichaux said Monday before practice. “We caught him a lot last week leading into the weekend, and he was pretty sore where he had that meniscus surgery.
“With having Sunday off and the weekend, because he didn’t play or catch, hopefully we’ll see how it reacts (Monday) at practice.”