UL coach Tony Robichaux has been trying to do better than a 3-2 week all season long.
Last week’s 4-1 showing was indeed a welcomed relief.
There’s nothing more frustrating than finally getting to the top of the hill and then getting pushed back down.
But after mid-week losses to Louisiana Tech and McNeese State, that goal is now impossible this time around.
The only way to feel any better is to make hay in this weekend’s home Sun Belt Conference series against South Alabama, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Russo Park.
“It’s Sun Belt Conference play for us,” Robichaux said. “Really, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, because we play against us. Last week, we handled us better. That’s what led to the 4-1 week. That’s what we have to keep doing. But they come in with pride. They come in with tradition. They’ve run this conference for a long time and they believe it's theirs."
Robichaux is convinced starting pitching must set a better tempo early in games.
While Austin Perrin has largely been a mainstay, little else is certain these days. Jack Burk was supposed to start game three last weekend, but an illness prevented that. He still wasn’t available Wednesday against McNeese.
“We wanted to throw him (Burk) an inning tonight,” Robichaux said after Wednesday’s loss in giving the team’s latest medical update. “He’s just trying to come back from that and (Caleb) Armstrong has it now. So hopefully, we can get him back for the weekend. And Handy’s (Handsome Monica) got a hyperextended knee, so I don’t know how long he’ll be out. It is what it is. You’ve got to work through it.”
Perhaps last weekend’s solution can be this weekend’s answer as well in junior right-hander Brandon Young.
The Howard Junior College product began the season in the weekend rotation as the No. 2 starter, but failed early on.
“That’s who we signed,” Robichaux said after Young’s outing. “Out of fairness to him, he ran into a little labrum trouble his sophomore year at junior college. But the bottom line is he has been feeling better.”
UL relief pitcher Grant Cox certainly did his part with five innings of solid relief.
Young actually looked even better than the Cajuns originally expected, allowing one run on four hits with one walk and 13 strikeouts in seven innings.
“He’s a guy that’s not scared either,” Robichaux said. “The players know that. When he throws an elevated fastball, he’s got something behind it. And he’s a fighter, so guys want to play behind him.
“That’s big because it gives us more options, because the people who set poor tempos, they’re going to come sit by me.”
The simple explanation for Young’s remarkable turnaround performance was having more than one pitch.
“When you locate down, that’s called the slow zone,” Robichaux explained. “When you locate up, that’s the fast zone. It takes more reach to get to up pitch, so the velo(city) goes up. Even if it stays 87 down and 87 up, it’s two different pitches, because you can get to this one (low pitch) by bottoming out the bat and being late but you can’t get to this one (high pitch) being late.”
It was the first time this season the Cajuns had what looked like an overpowering No. 1 pitcher on the hill.
“What he does a great job of is when his fastball is down, his elevated fastball is as good as anybody’s,” Robichaux added. “What happened to him early in the year is that’s all he had was an elevated fastball, nothing down. When that happens, their eyes get quicker because you’re in a fast zone all the time.
“If you can get down and drag their eyes down, then get back up above their eyes, that’s a good pitch. Plus, his breaking ball is getting better, his slider. He didn’t have that earlier in the year and he was spiking his curve ball. He was a one-pitch guy up here and he can’t pitch that way. Nobody can pitch that way.”
This weekend against South Alabama, Young will start game one, Perrin game two and Burke will start the final game.
South Alabama at UL
Series: 6:30 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday.
Site: Russo Park.
Radio: KPEL 96.5 FM.
Records: USA 14-18, 4-8; UL 17-19, 6-6.
UL Hitters: Todd Lott (.330, 3 HRs, 19 RBIs); Hayden Cantrelle (.323, 8 HRs, 22 RBIs); Hunter Kasuls (.302, 3 HRs, 16 RBIs). Team: .261, 195 runs, 36 HRs, 65 SBs.
USA Hitters: Ethan Wilson (.317, 8 HRs, 28 RBIs); Michael Sandle (.313, 3 HRs, 20 RBIs); Kaleb DeLaTorre (.274, 4 HRs, 17 RBIs). Team: .253, 193 runs, 30 HRs, 13 SBs.
UL Pitchers: Brandon Young (1-3, 3.28, 24.2 IP, 18 H, 12 BB, 35 K); Austin Perrin (3-3, 4.29 ERA, 42 IP, 48 H, 9 BB, 30 K); Jack Burk (0-0, 3.52 ERA, 15.1 IP, 15 H, 5 BB, 7 K). Team: 4.72 ERA, 327.2 IP, 318 H, 165 BB, 287 K, .254 OBA.
USA Pitchers: JoJo Booker (3-3, 3.67, 41.2 IP, 42 H, 29 BB, 41 K); Caleb Yarborough (2-3, 4.13, 32.2 IP, 32 H, 12 BB, 22 K); Drake Nightengale (2-2, 5.24, 34.1 IP, 28 H, 28 BB, 39 K). Team: 4.96 ERA, 276 IP, 270 H, 159 BB, 260 K, .260 OBA.