A lot has changed for both the UL Ragin’ Cajuns and the Appalachian State Mountaineers since the two teams met in late March.
On that weekend in Lafayette, the visiting Mountaineers beat the Cajuns two of three games — both ASU wins were 6-5 and UL won 7-4.
Something needed to change.
A month later, the Mountaineers were still enjoying a promising season. But since their sweep of UTA in late April, Appalachian State has gone 3-8 overall and 2-7 in league play.
During that same stretch, the Cajuns have caught fire with a 7-2 run.
UL coach Tony Robichaux hopes those two trends continue when the No. 8 Cajuns face the No. 9 Mountaineers in the play-in round of the 2019 Sun Belt Conference tournament at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Conway, S.C.
The UL offense the Mountaineers (22-30, 13-16) faced in March doesn’t resemble the one the Cajuns’ past three foes have encountered. App. State’s pitching staff limited UL to a .239 average in their series at Russo Park.
In UL’s past three Sun Belt series, the Cajuns’ offense has hit .336 at Coastal Carolina, .360 against Georgia State at home and then an even better .400 at UL-Monroe this past weekend.
“Our hitters are finishing innings (now) and breaking opening games with what we call the big lick,” Robichaux said of UL’s offensive turnaround in recent weeks. “We haven’t been able to do that (before).”
MONROE — UL's bats went from red hot to virtually unstoppable in Saturday's 19-8 win over ULM in seven innings.
Leading that parade this past weekend was senior second baseman Hunter Kasuls, who earned his first weekly Sun Belt honor in his final regular-season weekend by hitting .677 (10 for 15) with eight RBIs and six runs scored. That was highlighted by going a school-record 6 for 6 in Saturday’s win.
“One good thing is, we’re not going there (Sun Belt tourney) with a team hitting .230 and not physical,” Robichaux said. “We’re bringing a team in there kind of clicking as hitters. I think somebody could hit their way through this because the pitching is so bad in our league at this point in time.
“That’s why I’m glad the kids one through nine have stayed on the hitting system. The ERAs are so bad this year in our conference. Almost everybody’s hiding behind a 5.00 ERA. Because of that, I think the premium’s going to be on hitting and we’re hitting really good right now.”
The other aspect of UL’s home series loss to the Mountaineers was sketchy pitching. In late March, Jack Burk and Brandon Young were still not much in UL’s plans, actually serving as mop-up relievers in that series.
Down the stretch, they became the staff’s 1-2 weekend starters.
But that series also featured UL’s biggest problem this season — free bases. UL pitchers walked five and hit two in the Game 1 loss to the Mountaineers and then issues seven walks and one hit batter in the rubber game.
“Somebody’s got to stand up and if they hit us, they hit us,” Robichaux said of his pitching problems. “I’ve got no problem with it. He (Cox) proved that theory right there. Three hits, that looks really bad to the fan, right? But I’m more apt to let a pitcher stay right there because they’re running out of hits. The odds are in my favor now. Not to say it’s going to work out, but it did that day.
“But boy, when you go walk-walk-hit batter, there ain’t nothing in your favor now. All a guy’s got to do is hit a flare down the line and clear the bases. Three runs on a flare. Why don’t you just let the first guy hit the flare, right? I don’t understand how they can’t understand.”
UL vs. Appalachian St.
Game: 5:30 p.m., Tuesday.
Site: Springs Brooks Stadium in Conway, S.C.
Radio: KPEL 96.5 FM.
Records: UL 27-29, 15-15; ASU 22-30, 13-16.
Earlier: ASU won two of three on road (6-7, 4-7, 6-5).
UL hitters: Todd Lott (.340, 7 HRs, 44 RBIs); Hunter Kasuls (.340, 7 HRs, 34 RBIs); Hayden Cantrelle (.304, 9 HRs, 29 RBIs); Orynn Veillon (.303, 11 HRs, 42 RBIs); Brennan Breaux (.296, 3 HRs, 32 RBIs). Team: .284, 348 runs, 61 HRs, 87 SBs.
ASU hitters: Luke Drumheller (.337, 2 HRs, 36 RBIs); Tyler Leek (.325, 5 HRs, 23 RBIs); Kendall McGowan (.304, 8 HRs, 35 RBIs); Joel McDaniel (.283, 9 HRs, 22 RBIs). Team: .264, 291 runs, 41 HRs, 51 SBs.
UL pitching: 5.06 ERA, 501.2 IP, 499 H, 258 BB, 443 K, .259 OBA.
ASU pitching: 5.40 ERA, 451.1 IP, 464 H, 230 BB, 399 K, .267.