Cajuns Look to Snap Losing Streak Against WKU
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns will try and stop a season-long seven game losing streak this weekend as they take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a three game Sun Belt Conference series at M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field.
The Cajuns (13-15, 3-6 Sun Belt) have found different ways to lose during the streak. On some nights it's been the starting pitching and on some, it's been the relief pitching. On some nights the defense has broken down and, on others, the team hasn't gotten the key hit.
Tuesday might have been the most cruel way to lose all season as freshman Austin Robichaux took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and had a 1-0 lead with two out in the ninth before Brock Hebert's double scored two runs to give Southeastern Louisiana a 2-1 win.
Western Kentucky (12-16, 4-5) is looking for a few answers themselves. WKU took two of three from UALR in Bowling Green last weekend, but the Hilltoppers are now on a nine game road trip, with the first game a 9-2 loss Tuesday night to Louisville. Here are the matchups for the weekend.
FRIDAY: RHP Jordan Nicholson vs. RHP Justin Hagemann
Nicholson has been solid on Friday, although he suffered the loss last Friday night against FAU, a game where the Cajuns took the early lead, but could never get the big hit necessary to give them some breathing room. Hagemann is the reigning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and cut the Cajuns up in Bowling Green last year. This year, however, Hagemann is 1-3 with an ERA of six.
SATURDAY: LHP Chris Griffitt vs. LHP Tim Bado
WKU got some tough news as Tanner Perkins, who could be their Friday night guy, is lost for the year with arm trouble. Bado has done a nice job since moving into the weekend rotation. He beat UALR 5-1 last Saturday. Griffitt pitched extremely well last weekend against FAU, giving up just one run in 5.2 innings over a two day period. Cajuns haven't had much luck hitting against lefties this year.
SUNDAY: TBA vs. TBA
That tells you all you need to know about the consistency of the two pitching staffs. G. J. Strauss, Ian Tompkins and Austin Clay are the probable candidates for the Hilltoppers. Tompkins has started the first three weekends. Tompkins and Clay are lefties. The Cajuns could go with Joe Zimmerman, who was a little better last weekend against FAU than he was in his previous weekend outings, or could bring Robichaux back on four days rest.
WKU is hitting just .265 as a team, same as the Cajuns. But in league play, WKU is hitting just .240, compared to the Cajuns' .271. Pitching wise, the Cajuns ERA is 3.85. WKU is at 4.96. In the Sun Belt, those numbers are closer..in fact, the two teams are almost identical. Western Kentucky has been the superior defensive team.
In the bullpen, the question is will the Cajuns have Caleb Kellogg back to bolster a pen that's been anything but automatic. Taylor Haydell (a distant cousin of former Cajuns' shortstop Rick) is the reigning SBC pitcher of the week. Haydel picked up a win in relief and did not allow an earned run in seven innings over two appearances. he also struck out ten. WKU's pen isn't overly deep. Ross Hammonds is the other guy who gets a lot of work.
Western Kentucky is not as physical a team as they've been the past few years. Jared Andrioli is going to own the record books when he leaves Bowling Green, but the 'Toppers miss Catcher Matt Rice and outfielder Kes Carter, who are both playing professionally....in Bowling Green at the minor league park. The Hilltoppers, like the Cajuns, have only nine home runs as a team. WKU has hit only one home run in league play. They have only 17 extra base hits in Sun Belt action.
Hagemann has been good and bad for WKU this year. If the Cajuns see the guy who stuck it to them last season, they could be in for a long night. And, after that, it's two lefthanders. The Cajuns have to match WKU on the mound. It wouldn't hurt if they'd play better defense as well.