LAFAYETTE — With rainy conditions in the forecast for the foreseeable future, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux isn’t sure what’s going to happen for his team’s weekend series against nonconference opponent Jackson State.
“Some things you can control,” he said. “The weather is one of them that you can’t.”
The only planning the Ragin’ Cajuns (18-13) and Jackson State (21-11) can do ahead of this weekend is to plan to be flexible and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Robichaux said he will meet with Jackson State coach Omar Johnson and UL-Lafayette associate director of athletics for internal operations John Dugas on Friday afternoon, when the weather forecast is more clear, to develop a strategy to beat the weather.
“We’ll look at Friday night first and work from there,” Robichaux said. “We’ll adjust game times; we’ll do whatever we need to do to try to play.”
Right now, Robichaux and his squad are preparing as if they’ll play this weekend, and the Cajuns feel they have an ace in their pocket after going through this scenario earlier this season.
The Cajuns were riding a six-game winning streak earlier this season when the rain last enjoyed an extended stay in the area. Both of the Cajuns’ midweek games were rescheduled before they traveled to Little Rock for a three-game series against UALR. They spent two days cooped up in their hotel rooms before squeezing in a Sunday doubleheader; they lost both games in the final half-inning.
“It’s a lot like life,” Robichaux said. “Sometimes God puts a rock in your shoe for a reason: He needs you to get calloused up for what’s coming.”
It was a tough pill to swallow, but it provided experience for a team that was lacking in that department. Both Robichaux and star shortstop Blake Trahan said the team is better now because of that experience.
“We can come back and learn from that and make sure we stay focused at home,” Trahan said.
Of course, the Cajuns shouldn’t have a hard time focusing against a team that shut them out in the first game of the Lafayette regional last season.
Lefthander Vincent Anthonia scattered five hits over six innings, and Alexander Juday closed the game with three scoreless innings in the Tigers’ 1-0 win, forcing the Cajuns to win out to advance to the super regionals.
“(Anthonia) held us down real well,” Trahan said. “We’re going to have to have a better approach than we had that game. We’re going to have to look out over the plate, know it’s going to be slow and be able to sit back.”
Both Anthonia (1-2, 5.47 ERA) and Juday (4-3, 6.61) are back this season, but it’d be surprising if the Cajuns and Tigers engaged in a low-scoring series.
Jackson State is hitting .315 and is scoring nearly nine runs per game but comes into the series with a team ERA of 6.50.
The Cajuns enter the series on the heels of a season-best offensive output (14 runs on 18 hits against Southern), and their .283 batting average is the second-highest in the Sun Belt.
Not surprisingly, Trahan has led the charge for the Cajuns at the plate. He carries a 22-game hitting streak into the series, one shy of tying the school record set by Chris Webb in 1996.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Trahan said. “I’ve just been doing my best to come out every day and help my team get a win.”
Robichaux said he’ll be sending out the same weekend rotation that he has used the past two weeks, with freshman left-hander Gunner Leger starting in the Friday role, senior right-hander Greg Milhorn on Saturday and freshman righty Evan Guillory on Sunday.
Leger has pitched well since moving to the series-opening role but has been on the losing end of each of his past two decisions after the Cajuns offense didn’t pick him up. Pitching on Friday is a different experience for Leger, who started the season in the bullpen.
“I definitely think there’s an advantage for the Saturday and Sunday guys, getting to see their lineup, getting to see their hitters and what they like to do, what they don’t like to see at the plate,” Leger said. “But Fridays are fun; there’s a lot of energy, a lot of fans, you’re going to be facing their best guy.”
Jackson State has not announced which pitchers it will send to the mound for the three-game series.