The Grind-South Alabama Series [VIDEO]
Ready to catch the Jaguars by the tail, Cajun Nation? Pack your bags, we're headed to Mobile.
After starting the season 15-0 in Sun Belt play, South Alabama's lead atop the conference dwindled week by week as the Ragin' Cajuns chipped away. Three games back of the Jags with only six conference games left, it's go time. To put the momentum heading into Mobile in perspective, let's look back at last week.
Before we get into baseball, Ron Guidry Weekend was a massive success out at M.L. Tigue Moore Field, and Head Coach Tony Robichaux said the jersey auctions made the program thousands of dollars (you can still make bids on the leftover jerseys until the end of this month). They also celebrated Mother's Day in style by picking up a series win over Appalachian State.
The weekend started with a gem from Gunner Leger, Evan Guillory and Will Bacon, who combined for 14 K's in a 7-0 shutout of the Mountaineers.Gunner was Gunner (5 IP, 6K, 4 H), and Kyle Clement chipped in with three hits to go with Alex Pinero's three RBI. It was a tone-setter on Friday night, but Saturday the tone changed.
App State shocked the Cajun crowd with a 6-1 upset, cracking Jevin Huval for four runs in the 7th inning. Brian Mills was the only Cajun to collect an RBI that night, raising the concern over the offensive output again.
Not only was Mother's Day, it was Nick Lee's time to shine. The freshman stud struckout eight batters in seven innings of work in the 4-1 victory, with Dylan Moore swooping in to finish the game and collect the win. Brad Antchak's two RBI in the 8th inning gave the W to Moore, but you have to give credit to Lee for another stellar performance.
To reinforce Lee's status as a stud, Coach Robe announced this week that he is bumping him up to the Saturday starter against South Alabama. Go get 'em, ace.
Speaking of aces, Gunner Leger is your Grinder of the Week. He's been so damn consistent, I probably took him for granted. He's 6-3 on the year, and he consistently goes toe-to-toe with the baddest man on every team's staff. This is long overdue. Sorry, Gunner. My bad.
The Ragin' Cajuns hoped to pick up a win on the road in Houston, then turn back around and carry that momentum with them to take on the top team in the Sun Belt. Unfortunately, that's not the way the story panned out.
Despite outhitting the Cougars 8-7, the Ragin' Cajuns ended up on the wrong side of a 3-2 scoreline. Evan Guillory, Hogan Harris and Huval each only gave up a run, and Coach Robe wasn't happy with the offensive production after the game. He pointed to the 7th inning, where they had the bases loaded in a prime situation to pounce. One run came in off a hit batsmen, and they got the only other run on a sacrifice fly.
Robe said the performance was "inexcusable," and he told his team to "man up" at the plate. Harsh words from the coach, but he knows what his team is facing in Mobile.
South Alabama is tops in the Sun Belt, and they're protecting a three game lead over the Ragin' Cajuns. They're 25-5 at Stanky Field, to make the task a little bit tougher on the road.
Kevin Hill, their Friday starter, is about as wicked as they get. He's 8-1 on the season, with 107 strikeouts through 96 innings of work. Hill is an overpowering pitcher, to contrast Gunner's careful approach. On Saturday, Lee will get the nod in a high octane series, and Sunday's pitching matchup is TBD. It could be Evan Guillory, or it could be somebody completely different. Depending on how things pan out, Sunday could be for all the marbles.
Some teams respond to challenges. Last season, Robichaux's Ragin' Cajuns defied expectations to reach the super regionals. The ups and downs of the baseball season bring us to an interesting turn, Cajun Nation. Gut checks bring out the hunger in players, it's up to this year's squad to respond to the call.