UL senior Daniel Lahare knew deep down it was going to happen eventually.
But prior to the Ragin’ Cajuns’ April 18 road contest with Texas-Arlington, teammate Alex Hannie got a little more specific.
Sometimes you have to solve the identity crisis before moving on the true challenge at hand.
“Whenever we were at UT-Arlington, me and Alex Hannie had a talk in the outfield,” said Lahare, who is set to begin the final home series of his UL career at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Georgia State at Russo Park.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Man, I think this is the game you’re going to start going off. You’re going to find it again.’ And sure enough, it was the first game I got to play over there, I got two hits and I haven’t looked back since.”
As that conversation was taking place, Lahare was only hitting .159. The New Orleans native’s senior season had not been going anywhere close to what he had planned.
He entered the season with a labrum issue, among a few other pains. Then came a high ankle sprain. He didn’t get to play much with the injury and when he did, it wasn’t working out at the plate.
“It was just something that wasn’t clicking in my head,” Lahare said. “I would go up there knowing that I’m a good baseball player. I’ve been hitting my whole life. I know I can do it. I did it last year. I proved it last year.”
Coaches generally like to be prepared going into a game or a series.
As a junior, the everyday centerfielder led the team in hitting at .321 in runs scored (50), in total bases (101) and in slugging percentage (.470). He started 53 of 56 games last year. So far this season, he’s played in 36 with 31 starts.
In the 10 games, though, since Hannie told him the time had come, Lahare has been on fire.
He’s hitting .474 in 38 at-bats during that stretch, including two doubles, a homer and seven RBIs. As a result, his batting average skyrocketed from .159 to .258.
“Danny’s an energy guy,” Robichaux said. “He plays hard. He’s a guy that would have made a difference if he was in the lineup everyday, but at least he’s back now and he’s as healthy as he’s ever been.
“It's been a big weapon for us and now he’s hitting left-handed pitching and right-handed pitching.”
Lahare’s senior season has also been complicated by a position change at times to first base, both to save his shoulder and to fill a hole there.
A seven-game losing streak in the stretch drive of a college baseball season usually is quite damaging.
“It helps us enormously, because he can do more than just play first base,” Robichaux said. “He can also head out to the outfield if we need to. He’s been able to handle first base. He’s never going to throw like he once did, but he can throw.
“Him being able to play first base was big for us because that’s where the need was. That’s where the opening was.”
The transition was smooth for Lahare after playing first base his sophomore season at Brother Martin.
“The only thing that was kind of giving me trouble was how close it was, having to field ground balls cleanly,” Lahare said. “But I picked that up pretty quickly and our coaches did a great job of getting me ground balls during practices.”
But even during the stretches when his injuries sidelined him, Lahare did his best to help his team.
“When I was on the bench, I tried even more so to be a little bit more of a leader and try to bring energy to the guys,” Lahare explained. “I knew I couldn’t play on the field at the time, so I tried everything within my power to try to give the guys the best chance to win every day.
“I tried to bring the energy in the dugout, I cheered on my guys, tried to get dugout up and give everybody confidence every day.”
Things didn't look good for UL pitcher Jack Burk a few days ago.
So while the team has endured an up-and-down season, it’s no coincidence Lahare’s presence helped keep the confidence high enough to win a series at Coastal Carolina last weekend to keep the team’s postseason hopes alive.
“We come out here with good spirits every day,” Lahare said. “We run a positive-vibe train. That’s what me and (Hayden) Cantrelle say. If something happens and we don’t do a good job, we know we have a great group of guys who can hit and field and throw behind us.
“We just know everybody’s going to get the job done at the end of the day. If one thing goes wrong, we can’t control it anymore, and we’re going to move on."
It wasn’t like it was the first time he’s had big games during the 2019 season for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
Georgia St. at UL
Series: 6:30 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. Sunday.
Radio: KPEL 96.5 FM.
Online: ESPN-Plus (Friday).
TV: Cox Sports (Sunday).
Records: GaS 14-34, 5-19; UL 22-28, 10-14.