There are a lot of similarities between UL and Coastal Carolina’s baseball programs.
And naturally a few differences as well.
Both have sported very good mid-major baseball programs over the past three decades.
A seven-game losing streak in the stretch drive of a college baseball season usually is quite damaging.
During that stretch, the Cajuns have 16 NCAA regional appearances with 15 for Coastal.
The Chanticleers have been a little better in recent years — with seven in the past 10 years and 14 in the past 20, compared to five in the past 10 for UL and 10 in the past 20.
The Cajuns have won four regionals to three for Coastal and of course, the Chanticleers won their only trip to the College World Series, while the Cajuns finished third in theirs.
Not so surprisingly, both Coastal and UL failed to qualify for regional play the year after their CWS appearance.
When the Cajuns travel to open a weekend series at Coastal Carolina at 5 p.m. Friday in Conway, S.C., however, neither team will be thinking about the past.
Both are having their separate struggles in the here and now.
It’s been a theme for much of the season for the UL baseball team.
The Chanticleers were picked to win the Sun Belt Eastern division and still have a chance to fulfill that preseason promise. It won’t be easy, though. Coastal (26-18, 11-9 Sun Belt) is a half-game behind Georgia Southern and tied with Appalachian State.
The Cajuns (20-27, 8-13), meanwhile, aren’t close to winning the Western Division as predicted; they're mired in last place, largely because of a paralyzing seven-game losing streak.
If things don’t dramatically turn around in a hurry, it’ll make three straight seasons without an NCAA regional bid for UL.
Tony Robichaux himself has already acknowledged this season that any non-regional year is considered a failure for this program.
With that said, it’s also fair to point out that while baseball is certainly a sport conducive for mid-majors to prosper, it’s still a difficult process.
Baseball might not be as physical as some other sports, but it sure can still be brutal sometimes.
Of the 35 mid-majors to participate in the NCAA regionals last year, only 10 qualified for regional play in 2017 as well. Of those 10, only three also made it in 2016.
That trio is Cal State Fullerton, Southern Mississippi and Oral Roberts. One could easily argue Fullerton isn’t really a mid-major in baseball, and even the Titans are struggling at 18-22 this spring. Oral Roberts (22-18) is iffy to return in 2019 as well.
USM — ironically a team the Cajuns were a hair from sweeping this season — is cruising along at 30-13.
The biggest difference between UL and Coastal over the years is their identities. Until this year, UL was known for its pitching. The Chanticleers continued to bash the ball.
UL baseball’s 2019 season continues to be a series of rebounds for the Ragin’ Cajuns, mostly of the defensive variety.
“It’s like us, for 13 or 14 years, we were either first or second in the league in pitching, because we got his label that we can pitch,” Robichaux said. “For years, we kind of struggled as hitters from time to time. They got a label that they can hit. I think they think they can hit. They’re in a ballpark that conducive for run production. Their pitchers are struggling a little bit. They don’t always hold people down.”
UL’s offense has been hot of late, but Robichaux obviously yearns for the days when his staff consistently shined.
“Now you get a sneak peek of what happens when you don’t pitch,” he said. “I think everybody will understand the importance of going back to pitching.”
UL coach Tony Robichaux has been trying to do better than a 3-2 week all season long.
UL at Coastal Carolina
Series: 5 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. Saturday; noon Sunday.
Site: Springs Brooks Stadium, Conway, S.C.
Records: CCU 26-18, 11-9; UL 20-27, 8-13.
Radio: KPEL 96.5 FM.
UL hitters: Hayden Cantrelle (.326, 7 HRs, 25 RBIs, 26 SBs); Todd Lott (.322, 5 HRs, 30 RBIs); Hunter Kasuls (.291, 3 HRs, 19 RBIs); Orynn Veillon (.288, 9 HRs, 31 RBIs). Team: .266, 256 runs, 45 HRs, 81 SBs.
CCU hitters: Kieton Rivers (.358, 8 HRs, 49 RBIs); Jake Wright (.341, 6 HRs, 33 RBIs); Scott McKeon (.337, 2 HRs, 28 RBIs); Cameron Pearcey (.329, 3 HRs, 25 RBIs). Team: .302, 355 runs, 58 HRs, 71 SBs.
UL pitchers: Brandon Young (2-5, 4.50 ERA, 40 IP, 32 H, 26 BB, 51 K); Jack Burk (1-2, 3.74 ERA, 33.2 IP, 37 H, 7 BB, 21 K). Team: 5.01 ERA, 423.2 IP, 425 H, 218 BB, 361 K, .261 OBA.
CCU pitchers: Zach McCambley (6-2, 4.36 ERA, 53.2 IP, 53 H, 21 BB, 58 K); Austin Kitchen (5-3, 5.47, 52.2 IP, 66 H, 15 BB, 42 K); Anthony Veneziano (4-1, 4.29, 50.1 IP, 52 H, 23 BB, 57 K). Team: 4.97 ERA, 402.1 IP, 420 H, 194 BB, 412 K, .269.