The Grind-Conference Play Starts [VIDEO]
Conference play starts this week, Cajun Nation. If the Ragin' Cajuns want to win the Sun Belt, they're going to need to get it going on the road.
Tony Robichaux's group is undefeated at M.L. Tigue Moore Field this season, but they only have one win away from Lafayette. Their conference slate starts out in Troy, Alabama, this weekend. After that, their next three midweek games come on the road as well. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's look at how we all got here.
Since the last installment of "The Grind," the Cajuns lit up Sacred Heart for 32 hits and 21 runs in their series sweep at The Tigue. It was just what the doctor ordered.
With Kyle Clement out for a while with a broken bone, the rest of the lineup had to adjust their production accordingly. Izzy Edwards had himself a weekend, reaching base eight out of twelves times and capping off the weekend with three steals on Sunday. He's becoming a consistent bat in the lineup, which helps lock things down in the outfield as well.
Speaking of consistency, let's talk about Joe Robbins. Obviously, he's your Grinder of the Week again.
The man is on fire. Robbins is riding a twelve game hit streak, dating all the way back to the second game of the season against Sam Houston State. In the three games against Sacred Heart and the midweek trip to Tulane, he picked up nine hits through four games. His presence at the top of the lineup is something to reckon with, the Cajuns just need to back it up with some timely hitting (pardon the Robeism).
The pitching staff continues to progress. Gunner Leger and Nick Lee both pitched six shutout innings on Friday and Sunday, and Wyatt Marks added eight more strikeouts to his season tally (21 K's through three games). The bullpen did it's job over the weekend too, and keep your eye on Jevin Huval. The right hander out of Breaux Bridge is starting to see some solid usage out of the pen.
Unfortunately, the trip to Tulane derailed their momentum they built in Lafayette.
Evan Guillory only allowed two earned runs in another unfortunate outing for him, as the Greenies scored all five of their runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to spin the game out of control late. A couple long balls did the Cajuns in, and they're now 0-3 in midweek games on the road. To make matters worse, all three losses came to in-state opponents (Louisiana Tech, McNeese State, Tulane).
If the Cajuns can get things going this weekend in Troy, it would go a long way. It just so happens their next three midweek games come against in-state opponents on the road (Northwestern, LSU, Nicholls). It's not going to get any easier any time soon.
Let's focus on Troy first. In baseball, you have to eat your dinner one bite at a time to not get overwhelmed with how much is on your plate.
The Trojans started the season off at a blazing tempo, winning their first seven games. Since then, they lost six of seven. It's been a stark transition from the start of the year, but the Cajuns shouldn't shrug this matchup off.
Troy's top three starters (Lucas Brown, Grant Bennett, Cory Gill) all have ERA's under 2.00, and you can expect them to be throwing their best stuff at a Cajun team that was picked to win the conference in the preseason.
Coach Robe said earlier this week that champions win on the road. Either he was sending a message to his team, or he was simply sharing his knowledge from years in the game. If the Cajuns want to host a regional or be involved in postseason play, they're going to need to get things done on the road to help out their RPI. Rankings and stats can be misleading, but the Cajuns can't afford to keep taking shots in the midweek like they have to start the season.
Remember, the Cajuns were picked to win the Sun Belt for a reason. They have a deep pitching staff and a lot of talent at the plate. Right now, they're finding their way. Whenever things click into place, we could see this team get hot in a hurry.
You can listen to this weekend's action on News Talk 96.5 FM, and keep up with the team all year long here on "The Grind."