Cajun Baseball Staying Hungry and Ignoring Pressure
After improving 20 wins and reaching a regional final last season, the Ragin' Cajun Baseball team still feels there is more ground and respect to be gained.
It's hard to believe a team receiving rankings in several national polls could feel like a snub, but standout shortstop Blake Trahan and the rest of the team continue to find fuel for their fire.
"We've actually taken it as not a good thing," Trahan said. "We actually want to be ranked a little higher than that, and we've got a ways to go."
The team posted an impressive 43-20 record last year, but relied heavily upon an offense that led the nation in home runs, ranked third in runs scored and sixth in team batting average. Everybody knows the Cajuns can flat out smash the seams off the ball, but what about the pitching?
While the Cajun bats were filled with gunpowder last season, the pitching staff held a combined 4.40 ERA, landing them at 157th in the nation in that crucial category. The Cajuns can't expect to outscore everybody on every night, and if this team expects to reach the College World Series like they all say, then the pitchers have to find another gear.
Fortunately all three weekend starters return from last year's squad, and Cody Boutte and the rest of the hurlers have a chip on their shoulders heading into this year.
"We end every practice by asking each other, 'what have we earned,' and we've only earned the chance to do more," Boutte said.
The addition of former LSU pitcher Carson Baranik along with several other situational arms will help bolster the returning rotation, which should free up pitchers like Ryan Wilson to have more of an impact for shorter stretches.
Head Coach Tony Robichaux hopes one of the six freshman on the squad can provide the unexpected spark after facing the brutal Cajun lineup in practice.
"They're learning how to lick their wounds and sew themselves up after facing guys like this," Robichaux said.
The pitching staff faces one of the fiercest lineups in the nation on a daily basis, so improvement is expected. The unexpected part of this team is that the hunger still remains and has maybe even grown.
Returning every starter aside from Dex Kjerstad from a 43 win season would give the team an excuse to celebrate their success and expect the wins to just roll in, but players like Seth Harrison look at the preseason rankings and only see a ladder remaining to be climbed.
"It's nice to hear and we appreciate it, but no one remembers who started out number one at the beginning of the year," Harrison said. He also said they're gunning for the top spot.
In a superstitious sport like collegiate baseball, players typically only whisper the word "Omaha" to each other in the locker room for fear of being caught looking ahead. The Cajun baseball team fixed their eyes firmly on the college World Series this year, and their coach isn't putting the blinders on just yet.
"They tasted it, and they saw where they were," Robichaux said. "We had a measuring stick and I don't think we were that far off."
Every player on the team spoke of "brotherhood" or "family" when describing the team chemistry, but what else would you expect from a group that is referred to as "The Pack?" Team leaders like catcher Michael Strentz know that staying tight will be more important than ever this year."
"We have a target on our back, which we didn't have last year," Strentz said.
The good part about having a target on your back is being ahead of your competition, and if the Cajuns have it their way, they won't have anybody in front to aim for at season's end.