UL baseball’s 2019 season continues to be a series of rebounds for the Ragin’ Cajuns, mostly of the defensive variety.
Leading to such frustration is that each encouraging stretch has been quickly followed by yet another obstacle.
Take last week, for example.
Things didn't look good for UL pitcher Jack Burk a few days ago.
Coming off a thrilling 4-1 week that vaulted the Cajuns to .500 for the first time this season, UL was promptly outscored 26-8 in losing its next three games.
Instead of being the last straw in this ultra-frustrating season, though, the Cajuns somehow bounced back again with stabilizing wins of 8-4 and 4-1 over South Alabama to smell .500 again at 19-20 and stay above the break-even mark in the Sun Belt race at 8-7.
Coach Tony Robichaux is hoping he doesn’t need much motivation when his Cajuns meet the LSU Tigers in the annual Wally Pontiff Classic game in Metairie.
Playing one of the nation’s elite baseball programs in the No. 14-ranked Tigers should take care of that.
Either way, Robichaux has somehow become an expert at keeping his players motivated through this season’s many pitfalls.
“Getting them to try and continue to fight and not say, ‘You know what, we tried, we know everybody’s disappointed in us. We’re not living at the standard we want to, so we’re going to go ahead and pack our stuff and go ahead,’ ” Robichaux said.
“I just don’t think you can do that. I don’t care if you’re down to your last dollar; God’s not finished using you yet.”
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Yogi Berra said this crazy game is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical. So the need for motivating players through the slump is a must in baseball.
As the obstacles build, Robichaux revealed in Monday’s weekly press luncheon that he points his team toward examples like the defending world champion Red Sox starting the season 3-8, or Baltimore’s Chris Davis setting the record for 54 hitless at-bats while making $17 million a year.
When teams aren’t matching preseason expectations, such tactics are often met with media members and disgruntled fans rolling their eyes in disgust.
But something’s keeping this outfit going, folks.
It sounded like a bit of a stretch when Robichaux opted for the old “we’re 0-0 again” as the second half of the season began after a rough first half, but you know what? Senior Handsome Monica admitted it brightened his perspective, and the Cajuns are 7-4 since then.
“We try to get them to understand that if you go the bookstore to buy a self-help book, the only reason there’s a story is because of some type of tragedy that occurred for the guy to be able to have a story,” Robichaux said.
“If you look at the book, 'The Road Less Traveled,' I mean the first line is in it is, 'Life’s going to be hard.' Think about it: It’s a self-help book, but they pop you right off the bat with 'It’s going to be hard.’ ”
The South Alabama Jaguars put on a clinic in both the power and short games Friday at Russo Park.
Of course, Robichaux also left enough room for the cynic to point to tangible baseball reasons for UL’s latest about-face rebound.
He mentioned the strategy of intentionally walking South Alabama’s best hitter Saturday and using the staff’s best sinker-ball pitcher with the wind blowing in Sunday to nail down the series-clincher.
“I hated to let the two in the middle of the week go, but the guys did a good job of getting beyond that and playing better baseball on the weekend,” Robichaux said of UL’s 2-3 showing last week.
This week brings Tuesday’s showdown against LSU and then a Thursday-Saturday holiday weekend Sun Belt series at UT-Arlington.
UL coach Tony Robichaux has been trying to do better than a 3-2 week all season long.
In Robichaux’s mind, that brings up the awkward scenario of his team playing in front of thousands in Metairie on Tuesday and then going to UTA, which only got 703 to host Baylor in its last home game on $1 taco night, one game after drawing 585 on ‘buy one adult ticket and get four kids in free day’ to close the Little Rock series.
Win or lose Tuesday, Robichaux most assuredly will have a good motivational analogy to pull out of his back pocket for the team’s bus ride to Arlington.
WALLY PONTIFF CLASSIC: UL vs. LSU
Game: 7 p.m., Tuesday, Metairie.
TV: Cox Sports.
Radio: KPEL 1420 AM.
Records: UL 19-20, 8-7; LSU 24-13, 9-6.
Series: LSU leads 54-26.
UL hitters: Hayden Cantrelle (.326, 8 HRs, 22 RBIs); Todd Lott (.328, 4 HRs, 21 RBIs); Hunter Kasuls (.291, 3 HRs, 18 RBIs). Team: .261, 209 runs, 40 HRs, 69 SBs.
LSU hitters: Zach Watson (.357, 4 HRs, 26 RBIs); Josh Smith (.336, 5 HRs, 19 RBIs); Chris Reid (.302, 24 RBIs); Daniel Cabrera (.290, 6 HRs, 29 RBIs). Team: .269, 250 runs, 31 HRs, 34 SBs.
UL pitching: 4.67 ERA, 354.2 IP, 342 H, 176 BB, 315 K, .253.
LSU pitching: 4.22 ERA, 324.1 IP, 282 H, 149 BB, 316 K, .232.