METAIRIE — Truthfully, UL senior Handsome Monica doesn’t really enjoy the challenge of following a teammate who just blasted a ball out of the park.
On Tuesday night at the Shrine on Airline, however, Monica delivered the encore performance of the season for his UL Ragin’ Cajuns when his home run proved to be the game-winner in a 6-5 come-from-behind win over the LSU Tigers in the Wally Pontiff, Jr. Classic.
UL baseball’s 2019 season continues to be a series of rebounds for the Ragin’ Cajuns, mostly of the defensive variety.
“It felt great, to put our team ahead,” Monica said of his game-wining homer to left in the top of the eighth. “There’s not a better feeling, against LSU a great team.”
Moments before the homer, Monica was on deck watching teammate Orynn Veillon tie the game with a majestic blast to left field.
“I was very excited to see the ball go over the fence,” Monica explained. “We tied the game with that hit. But hitting behind someone who hit a home run, personally it’s not very fun. It’s kind of hard to back that up.
“So I just went in there with the mindset of hitting the ball hard. And I did the same thing Orynn did, even though his went a little farther.”
While Veillion may have won the battle in Tuesday's win, Monica's line drive homer gave him his team-leading 10th homer, one more than Veillon's nine.
“I was looking for a fastball,” Veillon explained. “I was kind of late on the first two and it got to 3-2, so I kind of just sold out fastball and I got it. Thank God. It felt amazing. When I hit it, I knew it was gone. I can’t even explain it. I was just so excited.”
Things didn't look good for UL pitcher Jack Burk a few days ago.
Most players try to claim they were just trying to hit it hard somewhere, but not Veillon.
“No, I was definitely taking Daddy hacks,” laughed the former St. Thomas More star. “I was trying to get on the board for us. “
Those back-to-back homers allowed the Cajuns to reach the .500 mark at 20-20 for only the second time this season and also extended their winning streak over LSU to three games after sweeping the Tigers last season.
“Their guy (Cade Beloso 3-run homer in fourth) got a breaking ball that we didn’t bury and got it out of the ballpark on us,” UL coach Tony Robichaux said. “That was a nice swing. We kicked two balls in an inning. We could have kept those two runs off the board, but we let them get ahead of us.
“From that point on, I was a little worried. They were running good arms in there. They shut the faucet off us. Orynn ran into one and got it out of here and that gave us a little momentum.”
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One inning after Beloso’s homer, an error and a too-hot-to-handle infield single off Monica at first set up a two-run frame for the Tigers, who took a 5-3 lead until UL took its turn going long ball in the eighth.
At that point, Robichaux turned to his rubber arm reliever to save the day in Jacob Schultz, who pitched three innings to earn the save Sunday.
“I feel like if I’m worn down a bit, I throw better,” Schultz said. “If I feel too good, I get too amped up I guess and try to overthrow. If I’m worn down, I just kind of do thing and just let the ball run.”
Schultz also prefers to relieve than to be a starting pitcher.
“I like coming out of the pen a couple times a week, because I’m able to,” he said. “When you’re starting, you wait six days to throw again where out of the pen, you throw at a moment’s notice.”
Because of this sinker-ball pitcher’s unique approach, Schultz is also available to pitch this weekend at Texas-Arlington.
“I think it’ll carry into this weekend and we’ll do well this weekend,” he said.
For Robichaux, his team's effort was as planned. Getting the win was lagniappe.
"I'm glad that we come here and we play well," he said. "We do it for the Pontiffs. Like I've said many times, I watched my mom and dad bury my brother. I know how parents feel when they lose a child. So to be able to come here and play well and keep people in their seats all the way through the ninth inning, I think that's our job. It's a bonus to win in this."