When you think of how hard it is to get on base in baseball, it almost seems impossible to achieve.
And yet, time and time again, unlikely two-out rallies take place that determine the outcome of games.
UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux was sure feeling the sting of it after Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the No. 23-ranked Texas Longhorns at Russo Park.
After a scoreless first inning, Cajuns starting pitcher Brandon Young appeared to be cruising through the second inning.
Trying to gauge how the UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team will fare this season is a bit of a tricky proposition.
The Howard College transfer struck out the first batter and then got a groundout on the next.
Then out of the blue, disaster struck.
A two-out walk was incredibly followed by five consecutive hits, including three doubles.
To make matters worse, one of the singles was misplayed into a three-base error that chased No. 9 hitter Bryce Reagan all the way home.
“But here’s the only way they can do it, right?” Robichaux said. “There’s got to be a walk. There’s got to be an error. It’s what we talk about all the time — to pitch away from the three-run inning. There’s only one way to do that. You’ve got to stay away from the hit batsman, the walk and the error.”
When the best hitters in the game still make out more than half the time, you wouldn’t think a two-out walk would lose the game for you. But it did to the 0-2 Cajuns on Saturday.
“If you go back and re-look at the inning, a two-out walk,” Robichaux said. “That’s where it starts. It looks meaningless, right? But what it does is gives somebody hope.”
It sure ignited the Longhorns offense. Lance Ford doubled in a run on a play at the plate, just ahead of Reagan’s single-turned-unofficial inside-the-park homer.
UL-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux has been through the final preparations for an upcoming college baseball season many times over the…
“Then from there, we get the base hit and we talk about it all fall, don’t be John Wayne and try to throw somebody out,” continued Robichaux, whose Cajuns wrap up the series against Texas at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“Secure the catch first and then let him be safe or out. Then you just give somebody what they deserve. You don’t deserve an inside-the-ballpark home run on a single. You just don’t.”
And incredibly, Texas banged out three more hits to turn it into a five-run frame. The odds involved with baseball don’t seem to allow for five straight hits, but the Longhorns rode that two-out rally wave to perfect Saturday.
“Not only do you do that, but now you create momentum off of it,” Robichaux said. “Now you not only give them the three-run inning, but even bigger, you let them take momentum.
“When that guy slid in safe, it changes the whole momentum of the inning. Now you have to fight to get that calmed down. Then you have to fight and come in and answer, which we did.”
By the time I showed up on the scene at Louisiana-Lafayette's Tigue Moore Field, it was only four years removed from the big game.
Almost as unlikely, the Cajuns, who had only scored one run in their first 11 innings of the season to that point, then immediately responded with a four-run bottom of the second.
UL got five hits, as well, and Texas did hit a batter. Orynn Veillon’s RBI double, Todd Lott's RBI single and a two-run single by Daniel Lahare kept the Cajuns close.
UL’s bullplen then somehow posted four straight zeroes, until Ryan Reynolds led off the seventh with a solo homer.
“They always say a solo homer doesn’t beat you, but that’s not after a five-spot,” Robichaux said. “Now they’re tacking on.”
The Longhorns stranded 15 in the game, but UL’s younger relievers pitched effectively in stressful situations.
“We pitched in traffic, which is good,” Robichaux said. “We’re going to have to do, because we’ve got a lot of young arms. We got to get rid of walks. We’ve got to get rid of the free bases.
“The toughest thing for us in practice, we have to put runners on to let them pitch in traffic. That’s what they’re not used to. In high school, they’d get a little traffic and then 7-8-9 showed up.”
Austin Todd’s two-out, two-run double in the top of the 10th inning provided the winning runs as the 19th-ranked Texas Longhorns took a 3-1 wi…
Those free bases were critical. The Cajuns walked six and hit a batter, and that doesn’t count the five free bases allowed by the three errors.
On the flip side, Texas pitching allowed only two walks and three hit batters.
“What they do is pound the strike zone,” Robichaux said of Longhorn pitching. “They don’t walk you. They make you earn everything. That’s the way good pitchers pitch.”