The Grind-Louisiana Tech Midweek Matchup [VIDEO]
We're already a week into "The Grind," and the Ragin' Cajuns are three for three. Can they pick up a fourth win in Ruston to start the season?
Sam Houston State (and former hitting coach Matt Deggs) came into Lafayette for the season opener, and the Cajuns sent them back home with three losses...sorry, Matt. The Bearkats tested Tony Robichaux's team in the first game, taking them to extra innings before Derrek Herrington scored on a wild pitch. It wasn't a perfect win, but baseball isn't a perfect game.
Coach Robe is full of wisdom, and he's already at work dropping new "Robeisms" this season.
"We never really try to play perfect, we just try to fail less than our opponent," Robichaux said Monday. "We won the game because we failed less than our opponent."
Failing less than your opponent still equals a win, and the Cajuns stayed far away from failure in the final two games of the series. After Gunner Leger, Will Bacon and Dylan Moore held on for a 2-1 win in extras, the Cajuns boosted the run support with 29 hits on Saturday and Sunday combined, along with 19 runs. There were a lot of standouts from the weekend, but there was a clear frontrunner for our first "Grinder of the Week."
Any time you tie a school record, you get the first sip from the water hose. Kyle Clement, step to the front of the line.
Clem lit the world on fire on Sunday, going 5-5 at the dish and reaching base safely a sixth time on a hit by pitch. He raked a total of eight hits over the weekend, collecting four RBI's along the way. Coach Robe put him in the clean up spot behind Stefan Trosclair for a reason, and he's proving how dangerous he can be right off the bat...no pun intended. We could only pick one player this week, but several other players made a solid case for themselves as well.
In the first edition of "The Grind," I said Brenn Conrad had potential to be an X-factor, providing pop in the lineup. I would like to give Brenn a hearty "thank you" for making me look smart.
Conrad's solo shot in the 7th inning against Sam Houston State got them into extra innings, and he finished the opening series on top of the team in batting average after hitting 5-8 at the dish. His ability to play multiple positions in the infield (2nd, 3rd, SS) gives Coach Robe a ton of options where to play him, and if he keeps swinging the bat like this he will stay high in the lineup (batted 2nd all weekend).
Conrad wasn't the only player to go yard either. Joe Robbins and newcomer Steven Sensley also sent a ball over the wall at M.L. Tigue Moore Field, and Coach Robe hopes they bring that pop with them up to Ruston. Multiple other Cajuns registered multiple hit performances, and ten different pitchers touched the mound for opening weekend.
Gunner Leger only allowed a single hit on Friday, Wyatt Marks struck out eight in six innings on Saturday, Dylan Moore and Hogan Harris were filthy out of the bullpen and Eric Carter was a pleasant surprise on Sunday...how will things shake out this Wednesday?
Sophomore Evan Guillory gets the start against in-state rivals Louisiana Tech, but it's not a demotion from his role last year as a weekend starter. There's rhyme to Robe's reason.
"We want Evan to get out, finish this fourth start in this rotation," Robichaux said with confidence. "We set it up this way because we knew it would be more difficult on the road."
There has been a slight change in plans though. Louisiana Tech (first pitch 6:00 pm on ESPN 1420) was set to play five games in six days before postponing their Tuesday game due to inclement weather. That means the Cajuns will be seeing a better arm than they expected in the midweek, so Guillory needs to come prepared for battle.
Guillory was second on the team in starts last season, so he brings ample experience into the midweek, despite his status as a sophomore. He faces a Louisiana Tech team that had a losing record last season, and they lost more than ten players from last year's roster. More than 20 new additions will try to right the ship, but the Cajuns aren't exactly the team you want to "figure it out" against.
Midweek games can make or break your season, especially in the Sun Belt conference. There's zero chance the Cajuns will take this game lightly.
"With the RPI, every game for us is a conference game," Robichaux said.
The Sun Belt might not command much respect nationally, but the Cajuns are creating a name for themselves the old fashioned way: by winning games.
Check back later this week for a recap of the action in Ruston and a preview of some high-octane baseball in Houston against some of the best talent in the state of Texas. The grind never stops, but you can keep up with the Ragin' Cajuns all along their winding road to greatness this 2016 season, right here on "The Grind."