Different Ways to Win – From the Bird’s Nest
Last year, Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns stumbled to a 23-30 record. They finished last in the Sun Belt conference. And, during the season, they lost in all imaginable ways...
They didn't hit and lost 1-0 and 2-1. They had an untimely error or several that led to unearned runs that beat them. Some nights their starting pitching didn't hold up. Some nights it was their bullpen. Some nights they scored runs and had a collapse on the mound.
When you're 23-30, you find all kinds of ways to lose.
After a roster overhaul and some shifts in coaching responsibilities , Louisiana opened the 2013 season at M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field over the weekend with Central Michigan, a club out of the Mid-American Conference. CMU went all the way to the finals of the MAC tournament last year, losing 3-1 to Kent State, who made it all the way to Omaha. They are picked to win the MAC Western Division. They came into the weekend with four scheduled starting pitchers who all got a lot of innings last season.
The name may have said "snowbird team" but reality was, it was going to be a good test for this team.
And, despite three errors, six unearned runs and 13 men left on base in yesterday's 10-2 loss, Cajun fans should overall be pretty durned happy with what they saw over the weekend. The Cajuns won three out of four.
And, they did it in different ways.
Friday night they were physical. The Cajuns pounded out 14 hits, half of which were for extra bases. They were aggressive on the base paths. They had three bunt singles at times when no one was expecting a bunt. When CMU got back in the game, the Cajuns immediately answered and then flexed their muscles. The game was over by the sixth.
We didn't see a lot of that last year.
Saturday in game one, Cody Boutte, Nick Zaunbrecher and Matt Hicks gave the Cajuns solid pitching performances. And, the Cajuns got an early lead and made it stand up. We saw that some last year. In fact, the majority of those 23 wins were of that nature.
But Saturday in game two we saw something special. For eight innings, it was a pitchers' duel. We saw that plenty last year. The Cajuns lost more of those than they won. We saw the team have a defensive lapse in the ninth inning to fall behind by three. We saw defensive lapses a lot this year.
But here's the thing we didn't see last year.
Tony Robichaux, on last Monday's "Bird's Eye View" said he liked the makeup of this team and thought they'd be willing to fight. He was right.
The Cajuns came storming back with four in the bottom of the ninth inning and won a game they would never have won a year ago.
Three wins. In three different ways.
It's a 56 game season. The Cajuns will have games like they did on Sunday. They'll also lose close games. That isn't the point.
Good teams find different ways to win. The Cajuns did it three times over the weekend.
This weekend, they were a good team. And, they're capable (if they stay healthy) of having more weeks like this one.