The Grind-Sun Belt Tournament Preview [VIDEO]
It's tournament time, and the Ragin' Cajuns are the #1 seed. Pack your bags and head to San Marcos. Your boss will understand.
Thanks to a six game win streak to end the regular season, Tony Robichaux's team stole the top spot in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament right out from under South Alabama. They're the hottest team in the tournament, and a beast is awakening in the heart of the Cajun lineup...
LOOKING BACK: ULM
Welcome back, Stefan Trosclair. By the end of the series, ULM was tired of seeing him at the plate, and they were tired of watching celebrations.
The rain threw a major monkey wrench into plans, and it also derailed a solid pitcher's duel. Keegan Curtis was pitching a shutout for ULM, and Gunner Leger was only down one run before the skies opened up and washed away any chance of finishing the game.
When things resumed on Friday, the Cajuns didn't waste any time grasping the game by the throat. They broke out for five runs in the sixth inning, and Eric Carter was a bull on the mound, only allowing a single run in 4.1 innings of work. The 8-2 victory was only part of the fun on Friday, and their momentum carried right into Game Two.
In a game that took almost four hours, the Warhawks tested every last nerve in the Cajun fan base. They chased Nick Lee after three innings and 60 pitches, and it was a bullpen battle as the insanity ramped up. Both teams combined for 29 hits in the extra innings marathon, but Will Bacon, Dylan Moore and Jevin Huval only gave up one run over the final seven innings. Stefan Trosclair provided the finishing blow with a walkoff double in the 11th for a 6-5 win, invoking an emotional reaction from his teammates.
The place went nuts, but can you blame everybody? It was (possibly) the last weekend at M.L. Tigue Moore Field, so it's only right there were some fairy tale moments at the park.
To cap off the series, the Ragin' Cajuns got out to a 1-0 lead in the first few innings. According to Luke Johnson of the Advocate, in the fourth inning, Associate Head Coach Anthony Babineaux told the team a win would ensure them the #1 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Troy tripped up South Alabama right before the finish line, and the Cajuns turned up the intensity into a full sprint.
The inning following Bab's announcement proved the Cajuns were hungry. They threw five runs on the board in the fifth, capped off by a two run blast by none other than Trosclair. Evan Guillory picked up the 6-2 win after giving up only two runs in seven innings, and the seniors got to graduate with a Sun Belt regular season championship.
If you're not excited about the tournament yet, your Grinder of the Week will push you over the limit. When this guy gets hot, he haunts pitchers' dreams.
GRINDER OF THE WEEK: STEFAN TROSCLAIR
He's baaaaaack. Stefan Trosclair collected multi-hit and multi-RBI games in three out of the four outings last week. The Sun Belt had no choice but to name him their Player of the Week, and all the pitchers in the conference better hope he's not carrying the same hot bat into the tournament.
When Trosclair is in the zone, the Cajuns are dangerous. He's a spark that could start an offensive wildfire, which is why he was a no-brainer for Grinder of the Week.
Now, let's talk about that tournament.
UPCOMING OPPONENTS: ARKANSAS STATE, TEXAS STATE & TROY
If the Ragin' Cajuns make a statement in the Sun Belt tournament, it may get the attention of the NCAA Selection Committee. If you want one more party at M.L. Tigue Moore Field, say it with me: "Pitching, Defense and Timely Hitting."
Now that you have the words of zen master Tony Robichaux in your head, let's take the first bite out of this poboy.
Game One is against Arkansas State (Wednesday, 7:30 pm), and Head Coach Tony Robichaux decided to reach for his big gun, or rather, big Gunner.
Even though the Red Wolves hit Gunner Leger up for five runs in four innings earlier this year, Coach Robe is giving the ball to his ace and trusting him to get the job done. A competitor like Gunner rarely loses to the same opponent twice in a row, and throwing him early gives Robe the option of using him again if they reach the championship game.
If things work out in Game One, the Cajuns will play Thursday at 7:30 pm. Worst case scenario, they play earlier in the day at 12:30 with their backs against the wall. The good thing is, they have a ton of pitchers at their disposal.
Their opponent in Game Two of the tournament will be either Texas State or Troy, both teams the Cajuns beat in series during the regular season. Coach Robe will have a completely fresh Wyatt Marks, who didn't pitch against ULM, and Nick Lee will be six days away from only throwing 60 pitches. It might come down to matchups. Marks didn't fare so well against Troy earlier this season (3.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER), but he handled Texas State well (6.1 IP, 2 ER).
Nobody else in the conference has the pitching arsenal the Cajuns carry. Between Leger, Lee, Marks, Guillory and guys like Hogan Harris out of the bullpen, Coach Robichaux has more chess pieces to play with than the other coaches.
Game on. It's time to go win a championship.
P.S.-Tune back in Friday for another edition of "The Grind." Hopefully, we'll be getting ready for the semifinals and finals...
(NOTE: All games before 6:00 pm will be on ESPN 1420, and all games after 6:00 pm will air on News Talk 96.5 FM. Follow us on Twitter, @espn1420, to keep up with all possible time changes.)