LAFAYETTE — It’d been a while since the Cajuns baseball team pulled of a Sun Belt Conference sweep, but then again, this is a different team than the one we’ve seen through much of the season.
The Cajuns ran out three freshmen for their weekend rotation against UT-Arlington this weekend, and all they did was limit the Mavericks to three runs over 21 innings.
Coach Tony Robichaux said at the beginning of the season that his inexperienced team would have to get “weathered.” It appears they’ve rebounded well after taking their share of lumps early in the season.
Here’s a look at what went right, and what went wrong during the three-game series at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
1 YOUTH SERVED: Numbers don’t always tell the whole tale, but in this case they do. Here is the combined line for freshmen Gunner Leger, Evan Guillory, Wyatt Marks and closer Dylan Moore from this weekend: 23 IP, 18 H, 4 BB, 14 K, 3 R, 3 ER, 0.96 WHIP, 304 pitches, 206 for strikes. They didn’t try to overpower the Mavericks, but instead used their bats against them. It was a brilliant weekend for those young arms.
2 GLOVE WORK: Looking for the real reason the Cajuns have been so good in the second half of the season? Try the defense. The Cajuns did not commit a single error in the three-game series against UT-Arlington, a fact that’s made more impressive when considering just how much contact the Mavericks made this weekend.
3 K.C. SLAMMER: I’ve begun to stretch my vocabulary to describe what Kyle Clement is doing at the plate right now. Torrid might not cut it. Here was his weekend against UT-Arlington: 5-for-13, three runs scored, six driven in, one double, two homers and one walk-off infield single. He’s pegged squarely in the two-hole behind All-American Blake Trahan, and he doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere any time soon.
1 HEAD, MEET BRICK WALL: The book on UT-Arlington was that it was an aggressive team that hunted pitches early in the count. The Mavericks certainly proved that, and they made things easy on the Cajuns pitchers by refusing to adapt. Just think about this sequence of events: Marks faced five batters in the fourth inning, allowed three hits and did not throw a single first-pitch strike. Now guess how many pitches he threw. Got the number? If you said 10, you’re a winner (and probably a liar). The Mavericks utter refusal to work a count, when combined with some excellent pitch execution by the Cajuns, led directly to their downfall.
2 BOTTOMED OUT: The Cajuns will obviously take a conference sweep with three outstanding starting pitching performances, but they need to get better production from the bottom half of their lineup. The Nos. 5-through-9 hitters combined to go just 8-for-50 this weekend (a .160 batting average) with 10 strikeouts. That’s not going to get it done against better competition.
3 RUNNER IN STAYING POSITION: The complexion of Sunday’s game likely looks a little bit different if Mavericks third baseman Eric Tate did what everybody thought he should’ve done, and score from second base on a booming double to the right field corner. Some how, he held up at third base, and the Cajuns stranded him there. He doesn’t need me to tell him though, his third base coach was giving him an earful after the play stopped. That missed opportunity didn’t factor into the outcome, but who knows how it could’ve affected the way the Cajuns played.