Photo Galleries: heavy hitters

by Leslie Turk

Tony Robichaux says his Cajuns emerged from regional play an even better hitting team. We like the sound of that.

{igallery id=1657|cid=90|pid=5|type=category|children=0|addlinks=0|tags=|limit=0}

Friday after the Jackson State game UL shortstop Blake Trahan seemed to understand better than most how the nation's #1 team could lose to #270: "We're a little shocked, but baseball is a funny game."

The Cajuns outhit the Tigers 8 to 4. Austin Robichaux allowed 4 hits and one run over eight innings. Matt Plitt threw a scoreless inning in relief. The Cajuns committed one error, a harmless one by Robichaux. UL lost 1-0.

Funny, indeed.

One turns to coach/sage-in-residence Tony Robichaux for enlightenment. "You want to pitch and play defense and from there you want to try to get timely hitting," he said. "They got one timely hit we didn't get a timely hit when we needed it, and that's the difference in the ball game."

{igallery id=2804|cid=89|pid=6|type=category|children=0|addlinks=0|tags=|limit=0}

As is by now common knowledge, especially to those within earshot of Tigue Moore Field Monday night, the Cajuns eventually started hitting in a timely fashion and won the Lafayette Regional to move on to next weekend's Super Regional against Ole Miss. Action starts Saturday at 7 p.m. at The Tigue.

Pitching had been present from the start, as evidenced by Robichaux's gutty effort. The Cajuns gave up only 13 earned runs in five games, seven in a 14-8 rout of Mississippi State. The defense showed up each game as well. Three errors in five games cost the Cajuns only one run. Meanwhile the infield, especially Ryan Leonards and Blake Trahan on the left side, stole hit after hit.

The timely hitting finally arrived in time for the first of four straight elimination games. Against San Diego State three singles in the first inning scored the Cajuns' first run. In the second with two on and two out Michael Strentz homered over the left field wall. Then two walks followed by Trahan's RBI single and the Cajuns led 5-0. Final: UL 9 SDSU 2.

By the second Jackson State game Cajun hitting had reached a timeliness one could set a clock by. Three walks and a sacrifice fly resulted in a run in the first without benefit of a hit. In the second with one away and the bases covered with Cajuns Jace Conrad hit a grand slam. After adding another run UL finished the inning with five runs on two very timely hits. In the rain-delayed Sunday night cap UL scored in each of the first six innings on the way to a 14-8 rout of Miss State.

The Cajuns took an early 4-0 lead in Monday's final game after scoring 3 runs with two outs in the third and an unearned run in the fourth. State crawled back to 4-3 entering the ninth, but Conrad was hit by a pitch, again after two were out, and stole second. When Trahan drilled a liner just over the shortstop to score Conrad the Bulldogs were done.

How did the Cajuns start hitting at the most opportune moments? A revised batting order may have helped. For the second game and the rest of the Regional Conrad moved from third to second, Trahan from eighth to third, and Seth Harrison dropped from second to seventh where he got hot, going 6 for 15 over the last four games.

Robichaux, as usual, had a better idea. "Our approach in the opening night was not good enough and it did us in. They [hitters] went back to their approach. When they have their approach they're a tough team to deal with one through nine. I think our approach after opening night changed, and I think that's what has made us a better hitting team."

After a 53-7 regular season, a 4-0 run through the Sun Belt Tournament, and a NCAA Regional Championship the Cajuns now are "a better hitting team?"

Just in time for the Super Regional?

Now that's timely.