Sometimes you have to solve the identity crisis before moving on the true challenge at hand.
That’s pretty much what the UL Ragin’ Cajuns baseball season has been arout.
Coaches generally like to be prepared going into a game or a series.
The season began like many of them have in the coach Tony Robichaux era … with high hopes.
In fact, the Cajuns were the league coaches' choice to win the Sun Belt’s Western Division.
And yet the Cajuns (22-28, 10-14 Sun Belt) host Georgia State (14-34, 5-19) in a three-game series beginning 6:30 p.m. Friday at Russo Park still a half game out of qualifying for the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
Despite the question marks ranging from long layoffs because of injury rehabs to having to rely on freshman arms, somehow the expectation was Robichaux would once again be able to come up with an above average pitching staff.
A week ago, the UL baseball team seemed to be facing an uphill climb to even qualify for the Sun Belt Conference tournament in Conway, S.C.
And now that we’ve seen the true potential of this year’s lineup, if the pitching had been close to normal perhaps the lofty preseason prediction becomes more understandable.
Unfortunately for the fans and Robichaux’s nerves, that never transpired.
Gunner Leger hasn’t been able to overcome a two-year layoff. Neither has Dalton Horton.
And the freshman arms? Yep, they’ve pitched like freshmen.
But somehow through the long list of heartbreaking losses and disillusionment as the staff’s ERA continued to rise to unfamiliar heights, apparently something necessary began to take place.
Robichaux’s Cajuns stopped pretending.
The hope that the pitching was going to miraculously return to yesteryear’s top form was discarded.
This 2019 version of the Cajuns had to take on a new mentality — a new identity — before it was too late.
A seven-game losing streak in the stretch drive of a college baseball season usually is quite damaging.
It almost was and perhaps still may be … if this new approach doesn’t produce a strong finish.
But at least the current Western Division cellar-dwellers are still alive and kicking with several good reasons to expect a fantastic finish.
“They’ve kind of gotten through the disappointment of not living up to the standard we want to live up to and understanding that now to really do something about this, we’ve got to get away from who we once were, get on to what we can be and finish the way we think we can finish,” Robichaux said.
In other words, keeping crushing the ball and hope you can get enough hitters out to score more runs than the other team.
“But to do that, you’ve got to go inning by inning, pitch by pitch and game by game,” Robichaux said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do this weekend.”
In recent weeks, the hitters have certainly tried to meet this new standard.
UL baseball’s 2019 season continues to be a series of rebounds for the Ragin’ Cajuns, mostly of the defensive variety.
In the last 10 games, UL is hitting .315. In the past seven, that figure rose to .324.
In six of its past seven games, it’s been 11 or more hits.
The only worry there is, exactly how long can an offense maintain that kind of pace?
Still, Todd Lott’s recent surge has his batting average skyrocketing to .344 with six homers and 37 RBIs.
One thing about this attack is its more prolific on the road.
“Our ballpark does play a little bigger,” Robichaux said. “Hitters are unique cats, like pitchers. When they take (batting practice) on Thursday night or Friday, if it’s a ball park where the ball carries in, they believe they can hit. Here you can step on some balls and it’s an out.”
Then there’s the pressure that goes along with playing at home.
“And I also think there’s one little piece in there of the standard and some pressure of being at home and knowing the standard you want to live up to and knowing you’re not living up to it,” said Robichaux, who said some players worry about fan criticism and others are immune to it.
With only two weekends left in the regular season, it’s simply about survival.
“They understand the urgency,” Robichaux said. “They understand where we’re at.”