The Grind-Sacred Heart Comes To Town [VIDEO]
A lot has happened in a little over a week, Cajun Nation. The Ragin' Cajuns hit some bumps in the road, but there's still a lot of baseball left to play.
Since our last installment of "The Grind," the Cajuns dropped two games in the midweek, two more in Houston, and they won two games in between. Baseball season is way too long to hit the panic button yet, but the loss of Kyle Clement (broken hand) against UNO is going to make things interesting for the next month.
Louisiana Tech got the better of the Cajuns up in Ruston, proving that winning on the road in the midweek is always a tough task. Then, it was off to Houston for a taste of the Shriner's Classic.
The trip to Houston didn't play out the way Coach Robe would have planned, but they were in position to win two out of the three games. Despite a solid performance from Gunner Leger on Friday, TCU's bats found a way to hang seven on the board and give the Cajuns a loss to start the weekend. Saturday's game got wild. Tony Robichaux was tossed in the fourth inning after the umps robbed his team of a run, but they were still in position to win the game in the 9th. Unfortunately, a couple crucial errors cost the Cajuns that game, and Texas Tech claimed the 5-3 win in extra innings. Luckily, things starting turning around on Sunday.
After Wyatt Marks and Hogan Harris impressed on Saturday, Nick Lee followed up their performances with a gem on the final day in Houston. The freshman only allowed two runs in seven solid innings of work, striking out five in the process. The Cajuns will definitely look to have him carry that momentum into this weekend against Sacred Heart. Offensively, Stefan Trosclair finally broke out of his slump, providing the game winning home run to get his season going at the plate.
The midweek action offered two completely different results. Against UNO, the defense shined. The next night against McNeese State, it couldn't get out of its own way.
Blake Dean's Privateers gave the Cajuns a good run on Tuesday, jumping out to a 4-1 lead at M.L. Tigue Moore Field. Instead of folding the cards, they rallied behind back-to-back home runs from Ishmael Edwards and Joe Robbins and stole the lead and never game it back in a 7-4 victory. In the field, they turned five double-plays and looked like a squad that had things figured out defensively.
Only 24 hours later, the Cajuns committed four errors against McNeese State, allowing them to jump out to a 3-1 lead. Evan Guillory only allowed one earned run in his start, but the defensive mistakes cost the Cajuns. To make matters worse, they surrendered a four run inning in the eighth to the Cowboys, and that sealed the deal. After the game, Coach Robe pointed out that every loss this season involves an inning where they gave up three runs or more. In his book of baseball, they committed cardinal sins and paid the price.
That's where we are. A 5-4 start definitely isn't ideal, but this isn't the time to jump off the bandwagon. Baseball season is called a grind for a reason, it takes work and constant improvement. Speaking of improvement, let's get your Grinder of the Week.
Joe Robbins wasn't a regular starter last year, but he's giving Coach Robe no option but to keep him in the lineup this season. He's your Grinder of the Week for this week, and he's an early season MVP candidate with the way he played in the field and at the plate.
Not only is Robbins riding an eight game hit streak, with extra base hits in five straight games, he's providing a steady hand at shortstop. Some early issues up the middle made Robe turn to Robbins at shortstop, Stefan Trosclair at second and Brenn Conrad at second base. The changes worked against Rice and UNO, so the optimistic view would be to treat the McNeese State defensive debacle as the outlier. One thing is for sure though, no matter where he plays (SS, 3B, OF), Robbins' spot near the top of the lineup is secured.
Without Clement for the next month or so, the Cajuns are going to need more players than Robbins and Conrad to step up. Tony Robichaux said they can't become "run beggers," and he said the defense and pitching need to tighten up to take the pressure off the hitters. One thing will take the pressure off their hitters for this weekend, the incoming opponent.
Don't get this message twisted, at 5-4 the Cajuns can't afford to take any team lightly. That being said, Sacred Heart comes into Lafayette with an 0-3 record. In their three losses to Stephen F Austin, they allowed 35 runs. The Cajuns bats will be facing a team that allowed almost 12 runs a game in their first three outings, so there will be ample opportunities to get their groove back.
Expect to see your same starters this weekend, with Gunner Leger on Friday (6 pm), Wyatt Marks on Saturday (2 pm) and Nick Lee on Sunday (1 pm).
With softball out of town in Hattiesburg, there's no excuse not to pack "The Tigue." When a team is struggling, they need their fans behind them for support. Fair weather fans leave their team hanging, but that's not Cajun Nation. Coach Robe and his players aren't going to quit on their season, so we should all follow their lead and get back to the grind.
Hopefully in the next episode of "The Grind," we will be talking about three straight wins and an offensive explosion. Catch this weekend's games on News Talk KPEL 96.5 FM, and make sure to keep up with the Cajuns all year long right here on "The Grind."