The “lost week” is gone but not forgotten for Louisiana-Lafayette’s baseball team, and now the Ragin’ Cajuns will worry less about upcoming opponents and more about themselves.
The Cajuns lost twice in walk-off fashion to a lightly regarded Arkansas-Little Rock team in a span of three hours Sunday, wrapping up a forgettable week in which the squad fell victim to rain and soaked field conditions for five straight days.
“Last week really looked good on paper going in,” said UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux, “but then a five-game week turned into a one-day week.”
A Tuesday home game against Northwestern State was rained out, and weather and wet grounds also postponed a Wednesday road game at Southern. The Cajuns then watched it rain on a bus trip to Little Rock and spent most of three days waiting for the weather to clear.
When it finally did on Sunday, a UALR team that had struggled early claimed 5-4 and 7-6 wins, both times in the bottom of the ninth inning. Suddenly, the Sun Belt Conference’s only unbeaten squad, and one that was on a six-game win streak, finds itself in the middle of the pack two weeks into the league schedule.
“You’ve got a hot team, and suddenly boom, no game, and boom, no game,” Robichaux said. “And then you’re just waiting. There’s only so much coffee you can drink and newspapers you can read. Our pitchers hadn’t faced a live batter since Troy (the previous weekend).
“That’s not an excuse. We did everything we could to keep them in the best possible focus, and we had a chance to win both games. But we paid a price for not having that razor-edge focus.”
Robichaux said the toughest thing during periods of inactivity is to keep pitchers sharp. Scheduled starts, when pitchers have to be on call to see if weather-threatened games will actually happen, come after days of preparation in which pitchers try to peak on a particular day. That didn’t happen all of last week, and a UL-Lafayette bullpen that had been hugely successful over the previous three weeks also saw no action.
The results were obvious. After the rainouts Friday and Saturday, the Cajun staff gave up double-figure hits in both games Sunday to a UALR team that was hitting .205 entering the weekend.
“Relievers aren’t good when they’re not pitching,” Robichaux said. “They’re just not as sharp.”
Now, the Cajuns (10-7, 3-2 Sun Belt) will be back on the road, traveling to face Georgia State (12-6, 2-0) in this weekend’s Sun Belt series. After having two mid-week games scheduled — and rescheduled — last week, UL-Lafayette does not have mid-week competition this week.
“What’s good is this gives us a chance to work on us and to rebound,” Robichaux said. “Sometimes you have to do that internally. During the six-game streak baseball was good to us, and now the game’s being bad to us. But we had a chance to solve it ourselves and we didn’t.”
Robichaux said the squad will stage full-fledged intrasquad games on Tuesday and Wednesday before heading to Atlanta for the GSU series that begins at 5 p.m. Friday. More than a half-dozen pitchers who missed out on chances with the rainouts will throw intrasquad those two days.
“The realist in me knows this is a young team, and we need to practice and we need to play,” Robichaux said. “We thought going into the year that this was the type of team that could play itself into a better team. A veteran team, you don’t have to do that. I don’t know that many teams that are good without practice.”