On one hand, UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux would love to be true to his old axiom.
In February, ‘W’ stands for win and ‘L’ stands for learn.
In fact, he even alluded to the supporting logic briefly during Monday’s press luncheon.
“Development can be ugly, but you’ve got to stay on the process that it’s going to take to try to grow these guys up,” Robichaux said of his young bullpen.
On the other hand, circumstances can alter things … even for a veteran coach with strong convictions.
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The late innings continued to be a nightmare for the UL Ragin' Cajuns baseball team.
No, Robichaux isn’t jamming his finger on the panic button just seven games into the 2019 regular season.
But some trends, no matter how short-lived, virtually demand a response of some kind.
After getting swept at Sam Houston State this past weekend, Robichaux’s Ragin' Cajuns fell to 1-6 — their worst start since going 1-6 in 2003 to equal the worst start in the Robichaux era.
Ironically, the eighth game in 2003 was a 10-0 win over Southeastern. The 2019 Cajuns will now head to Hammond to meet the Lions in hopes of getting a second win at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Alumni Field.
Frankly, there are numbers more alarming than the 1-6 record.
UL is outscoring its opposition 24-12 over the first six innings … and getting outscored 31-7 during the final three-plus innings.
The starting pitchers have a combined ERA of 2.81 in 32 innings, and even that’s a little deceiving. It includes Brandon Young’s two-inning start, and he’s been dropped as a starting option. The other six starts have a combined ERA of 1.50.
The bullpen, however, has a combined ERA of 7.50 in 30 innings.
“We’ve created a little bit of an enigma, which is not always good in sports,” Robichaux acknowledged. “You can get labeled. Having done something three or four times, we’re going to get labeled. It’s going to keep showing up again until we can solve it. We’re going to pitch good one through six and then the monster’s going to show up.
“We created it, so we’re the ones that have to kill it.”
So expect a slight change in the short term.
For one, ace southpaw Gunner Leger is scheduled to start Friday’s home series opener against Maryland, saying missing a start this past weekend was purely cautionary.
Secondly, Robichaux said the staff will narrow the options coming out of the bullpen, assuming the starters continue to go five-plus innings.
“We’re going to realign for the weekend, maybe get one or two guys who have been pitching well into the bullpen to make sure we’re set up for the weekend,” Robichaux said.
That likely means leaning on hot early bullpen arms — yes, there are a few — like Jacob Schultz (0-0, 0.87, 10 1/3 IP), Michael Leaumont (0-2, 2.84 ERA, 6 1/3 IP) and potentially even Austin Perrin (0-1, 5.23, 10 1/3 IP).
Poor defense is becoming the norm for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns in the early going.
But while Robichaux is perfectly willing to shrink his bullpen options to halt the early slide, he doesn’t want to overwork the starting pitchers.
“What you’ve got to watch out for is you don’t want to start overpitching starters to protect the bullpen,” he said. “Starters can do what they can do for you, but they’ve got to hand the baton off to somebody who can come in and take it from there."
Some change is necessary, not as a statement of giving up on the young arms, but rather to avoid losing too much momentum in the early going.
“You’ve got manage now that we don’t suck the life out of the hitters,” Robichaux said. “They’ve got to stay on their plan and stay doing what they do best.”
Still, the Cajuns know they can’t totally abandon the youth movement.
“We just have to keep weathering them and keep tough skin — just get out there and keep getting after it,” Robichaux said. “Growing up young arms just isn’t an easy practice thing. It just isn’t.”
UL at SLU Baseball
Game: 6 p.m., Tuesday, Alumni Field in Hammond.
Radio: KPEL 1420 AM.
Records: UL 1-6; SLU 2-5.
Last meeting: UL won 4-3 on April 11, 2018.
Series: UL leads 66-51.