Cajuns eager to forget ‘pillow fight’ in rematch with McNeese State _lowres

Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Tony Robichaux watch warm ups before the start of the Northwestern State game at Brown-Stroud Stadium Wednesday Feb. 18, 2015 in Natchitoches, La. Photo by Brad Kemp/RaginCajuns.com

LAFAYETTE — Coach Tony Robichaux has repeatedly gone to the well for a specific analogy every time he brings up the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s first baseball game against McNeese State this season, a 17-inning affair that the Cowboys won after more than five hours on the diamond.

“That was a pillow fight,” Robichaux said. “They hit us with a pillow, we hit them back with a pillow. They didn’t want to win, they gave it to us. We didn’t want to win, we gave it to them.

“We’re a better team now, hopefully, then we were back then. So is (McNeese).”

That much is probably true, as the Cajuns (12-8) have gone 8-4 since the “pillow fight,” while McNeese (16-8) has gone 11-4. The two teams will complete their season series Tuesday in Lake Charles, the first of a five-game week for the Cajuns.

While it was a forgettable game for the Cajuns, who squandered several opportunities in the late innings to give Robichaux his 1,000th win against the team he started coaching with, they took plenty of lessons away from that game.

“That 17-inning game helped us, believe it or not,” Robichaux said. “Even though we got dumped after 17, it did help us because so many young freshmen had to come in and hold the rope in there.”

The Cajuns used seven pitchers in that game, five of whom are in their first year with the program. Those five pitchers combined to allow two earned runs in 15.1 innings.

One of them was freshman Wyatt Marks (1-0, 2.35), who in his home debut struck out five in 2.2 innings. He’ll make his first career start Tuesday in Lake Charles.

“We like Marks because he can be 91-93 (miles an hour),” Robichaux said, adding that Marks has starter material. “He’s got a good arm, he’s got a good slider, his changeup’s continuing to get better.”

Marks has fared well out of the bullpen this season, striking out 11 in 7.2 innings while giving up two runs. Robichaux said he isn’t sure how long he’d leave him in the game against the Cowboys, possibly three to five innings.

“I want him to get us off to a good start,” Robichaux said. “He’s a guy that charges the strike zone and comes after you.”

Since the team has played five games in the past 15 days, Robichaux said he wants to use the opportunity created by a busy week to get work for several pitchers.

“We’ll be able to throw a lot more arms, which is what we need to do,” Robichaux said.

The Cowboys were shut out in two games of their series against Abilene Christian. But they scored 41 runs in the four games before the Abilene Christian series.

McNeese is batting .290 as a team and has seven regulars batting .298 or better. Center fielder Andrew Guillotte is batting .350 and has 11 stolen bases from the top of the order.

Senior right-hander Cory LaPeze (0-0, 1.62) will make his first start of the season against the Cajuns. In relief, he has struck out 17 in 16.2 innings and allowed three hits. LaPeze struck out five in 2.2 innings in the first game against UL-Lafayette.

The Cajuns are led by All-America shortstop Blake Trahan, who is on an 11-game hitting streak. Trahan is batting .416 with 10 doubles and 13 RBIs.

This will be the final leg of a six-game road swing for the Cajuns, who return home for the first time since March 8 for a four-game homestand, starting with Nicholls State on Wednesday.

“We’ll be glad to be home,” Robichaux said. “We’ve been on the road a lot with this young team, which has been good to continue to weather them and grow them up.”