Is this make or break time for Cajuns baseball?
Louisiana's Ragin Cajuns have won five of their last six since their bats have come alive. And, in the game they lost, they scored seven runs and allowed double-digit runs for the first time in 53 games.
The bats are alive, the pitching has been good, if not great, the defense has been stellar.
The Cajuns actually got their pRPI all the way up to 84 after their win over LSU last Tuesday night at Alex Box Stadium and Friday night's win over Arkansas State. But the pRPI dropped all the way to 104 after the Cajuns split with Arkansas State (pRPI 163) over the weekend. But what really hurt the Cajuns ranking was the lack of success of their opponents. Nicholls State, Siena, Southeastern Louisiana, Alcorn State and LSU all had tough weekends. Only Southern (3-0), Cal (3-0) and Southern Miss (2-1) had any success. The Cajuns need for their non-conference opponents to be successful to help that all-important ranking.
But the best thing Louisiana can do is win games. And if the Cajuns are going to make a move, they're going to do it over the next fourteen games.
The Cajuns are hitting the toughest portion of their schedule, beginning this weekend. Florida Atlantic, who tied with the Cajuns for the Sun Belt regular season crown last year, comes to Tigue Moore Field for a three game SBC series. FAU (54) comes in at 5-1 in Sun Belt play after sweeping Middle Tennessee last weekend. The Owls lead the Sun Belt in runs scored (2nd in hitting overall) and have good numbers defensively(4th) and respectable numbers in ERA (6th). Their Saturday starter, Paul Davis, leads the league in ERA.
And after that, the Cajuns hit the road for ten out of eleven.
It's the toughest stretch of the season, but the Cajuns have won three of their last four road games. They'll need to continue playing well, since, not only are the Cajuns going on the road, but doing it against good teams.
Here's the way it shakes out after this weekend. (pRPI in parentheses courtesy of boydsworld.com)
Tuesday April 5--at Rice (20). The Owls don't have a stellar record but they've played a very tough schedule and their RPI is strong. While the Owls don't appear to be close to those Rice teams early in the 2000's, they're still going to be very tough to beat at Reckling Park
Friday-Sunday, April 8-10--at Western Kentucky (69). Hilltoppers got an impressive series win at Florida International and were a 10th inning bullpen meltdown from a sweep. And, the Tops are 9-2 at Nick Denes Field this year
Tue, April 12th--McNeese (140) The Cowboys have their best team since Terry Burrows took over as head coach, as evidenced by their series win at Southeastern Louisiana. A much improved squad that can score some runs, and now, can pitch a little as well.
Wed. April 13--At Northwestern State (150)--Cajuns won a tight one against the Demons this past Tuesday. It will be tougher at Brown-Stroud Field.
Fri-Sun April 15-17 at FIU (34) Their 16-11 record is somewhat misleading, as they've played a tough road schedule, with trips to Rice, Texas A&M, Baylor and Tulane. Their 2-4 record in the league is misleading as well, having played FAU and Western Kentucky. It's the Cajuns third straight trip to University Park. They haven't won a series there since...well, it's been awhile.
Tue April 19 The return trip to McNeese in Lake Charles
Wed. April 20 a return visit to Southern (227) and it's never easy to win there. Cajuns got a one run win there last year.
Fourteen games, ten on the road. Ten of the games against teams with a better RPI than the Cajuns.
And, let's not forget, when they finally return home, the Cajuns have a weekend series against South Alabama (56). But after the road stretch, the Cajuns will have eleven of their last 17 at home.
The next fourteen games are an opportunity to make some headway. But with ten road games, it's also a stretch filled with peril.