It got far too interesting for UL-Lafayette baseball fans Sunday on Tigue Moore Field at Russo Park.
The Ragin' Cajuns downed No. 23 Texas 8-6, but only after the Longhorns rallied after an early 8-1 deficit.
But the most important part of the day was the first five innings.
It’s been a persistent issue over the decades for the Ragin’ Cajuns athletic department.
The star of that show was junior left-hander Dalton Horton.
The transfer from TCU hadn’t pitched in almost two years after a fabulous freshman season in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2016.
His Cajuns debut went better than good; he allowed just one run on three hits with three walks and five strikeouts in five innings.
“It’s been about a year and three-quarters since I last pitched in a game, so it’s been a while,” Horton said. “It’s just fun to be back out on the field with the boys.
“My velocity’s still building a little bit, but I felt good. I threw 90-something pitches today, so that’s a good start to keep building on.”
When you think of how hard it is to get on base in baseball, it almost seems impossible to achieve.
The unknown was never Horton’s ability, but rather his health. In 2016, he was a second-team all-Big 12 selection as a freshman, going 8-0 with a 2.58 ERA in 59⅓ innings.
“That guy’s been hurt,” Robichaux said “The injury he had really wasn’t a surgical thing. A lot of us haven’t even seen it. We had to call other doctors to see if they’ve seen it.”
Both Robichaux and Horton praised the physical therapy team, including Kerry Lamkin, for getting the 6-4, 215-pounder ready to pitch.
“He’s been good in the early spring,” Robichaux said. “We just didn’t know about the rust. He can handle a heavy load. He’s a big-body guy. He was an innings-eater for them. He handles the running game good. He’s been in big moments. He’s not going to be scared of people.
“He were considering him as a weekend arm no matter what. We just didn’t know if the injury would allow him to be a weekend arm.”
Once he decided to leave TCU while dealing with his rare injury in the shoulder area, three left-handers with Cajuns roots influenced his decision to come to Lafayette.
Gunner Leger and Hogan Harris pitched with him in the Cape Cod League, and his youth pitching coach was former UL All-American Trey Poland, a Centenary transfer who pitched for Robichaux in the 1990s.
Trying to gauge how the UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team will fare this season is a bit of a tricky proposition.
“So whenever I was thinking about transferring, I just kind of talked to all of those guys and they gave me unbelievable feedback about coach Robe, so it was kind of a no-brainer,” Horton said.
In Sunday’s win, Dalton threw 92 pitches.
“I’ll be good,” Dalton said. “In a couple weeks, I’ll be maxing out what I can do.”
Robichaux and Dalton would love if UL’s offense continues to give him big run support.
The Cajuns’ bats scored two in the fourth and four in the fifth to build an 8-1 lead.
“I thought we did a good job of answering back,” Robichaux said. “We did a good job of sustaining the momentum. I thought we did a good job of what we call just letting the pitchers just sit in the grease.
“Don’t get jumpy in those situations. We did a good job of staying in the moment and keeping the adrenaline on our side.”
Todd Lott was 1 for 2 with a double and two RBIs, and Gavin Bourgeois was 1 for 2 with three RBIs.
“It was a huge confidence-booster,” Lott said. “We knew we could do what we wanted to do, but we just needed to see it happen.”
Robichaux hopes his hitters cling to the new hitting approach.
“I feel like we’re more of a warrior mentality,” Todd said. “We go in there knowing we can compete with the guy on the mound.”
Patience was a big part of that Sunday — UL walked nine times.
“Our approach is going to work,” Robichaux said. “I trust it. But we had to jump them this morning to not splinter away. You can’t splinter off the approach. I don’t care if you lose game one and game two. You don’t splinter off.
“You’ve got to have nine guys who won’t splinter off and be relentless, and that’s what we had today.”