LAFAYETTE — After his team committed four errors that led to four unearned runs in an 8-5 loss to LSU on Tuesday night, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux had a message for his team.
“You’ve got to make the plays,” Robichaux said after the game. “You’ve got to man up when it’s time to man up.”
Entering their third conference series of the season against Georgia State, which starts a day earlier than usual because of the Easter holiday, the Cajuns (12-9, 3-3 Sun Belt) have stumbled out of the gate thanks to some inconsistent play in two of the game’s three phases.
Though they’re hitting at a respectable .280 clip as a team for the season, the Cajuns have been up and down at the plate. That was the case again Tuesday night, when they managed just six hits — one of which was a three-run home run by Steven Sensley.
In their nine losses, the Cajuns are averaging just 7.4 hits and 2.6 runs per game. In wins, those numbers jump to 10.9 hits and 9.4 runs per game.
Even with the uneven performances at the plate, their record could look a whole lot more appealing if they had played some better defense behind their outstanding young pitching staff.
The Cajuns have committed 21 errors this season, but 13 have come in the nine losses. Tuesday’s four-error game tied a low point for the team, who also committed four errors in a midweek loss to McNeese State earlier this season.
Twelve of the 14 unearned runs the Cajuns have allowed this season have come in their losses.
The faulty defensive efforts have led Robichaux to shuffle his lineup looking for a solid infield.
Back in the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park, Robichaux inserted Joe Robbins — who had been playing stellar defense at third base — at shortstop after a pair of costly errors by Hunter Kasuls in losses to TCU and Texas Tech.
That move correlated with putting Stefan Trosclair back at second base, where he spent much of last season, and shifting Brenn Conrad from second base to third base and Alex Pinero over to the first base spot vacated by Trosclair.
That alignment solidified things temporarily, but was made more difficult after an injury to center fielder Kyle Clement. Since Clement’s injury, Kasuls has found more regular playing time — and has cut down on his errors — while Robbins shifted back out to center field.
The Cajuns started Tuesday’s game with Conrad at third base, Kasuls at shortstop, Trosclair at second base and Pinero at first base. But Robichaux made sweeping changes after a both Kasuls and Conrad committed errors.
Trosclair went back to first base, Conrad went to second base and Robbins came back in from center field to play third base, where he made a diving stop and strong throw to get an out.
Robichaux said he liked the defensive alignment his team finished the game in with one caveat.
“Every time we get in a hole, we’ve got to go pull Joe Robbins to fill the hole,” Robichaux said. “Joe Robbins can’t fill nine positions. Some people have got to man up.”
So that was the message to the team. Man up. What does it mean?
“Don’t be afraid,” Trosclair said. “Want the ball. Want to get the big hit. Step up like Steven did tonight and get that big hit. Don’t be afraid or scared to mess up and or a mistake.
“Be a man to go out and handle your business, and do it with your hair on fire competing and playing hard.”