Cajuns fall 11-8 to FIU Saturday

by Leslie Turk

After what appeared to be a second blown call by league umpire Scott Kennedy, UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux kept his cool in the Cajuns' third straight loss in the Sun Belt Tournament.

After two days of torture from the Sun Belt Conference, and after what appeared to be a second blown call by league umpire Scott Kennedy, UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux was probably seething inside late Saturday night.

But you wouldn't have known it from his outward appearance, moments after his Ragin' Cajun squad was dealt its third straight loss in the Sun Belt Tournament a trio of losses that ended any faint hope of earning a slot in the NCAA Tournament.

"We didn't do enough all year," Robichaux said after the Cajuns fell 11-8 in 10 innings to Florida International in their third and final game of the round-robin event. "That's really frustrating because that's how I judge a season, if you're in the postseason. That's how I judge my performance as a head coach, so I failed as a coach this year."

The Cajuns finished at 31-27 after also losing to South Alabama and Arkansas State in the tournament, meaning that UL has now lost seven straight games in Sun Belt Tournament play dating back three years. Last year, the Cajuns still got into NCAA Regional play after dropping two Sun Belt tourney games, but that won't happen this year. NCAA bids will be announced on Monday, and the 64-team bracket won't include UL.

A win on Saturday night in the finale likely wouldn't have changed that, even though FIU is likely locked into an NCAA berth after finishing second in the regular season and advanced to Sunday's title game. But it would have been nice for Robichaux to walk out of UL Monroe's Warhawk Field with a victory, especially after the tumultuous week he'd had.

"Things some time don't go your way," Robichaux said. "That's what I told the kids after the game. That's why they say to play every game like it's your last one, because eventually it's going to be your last one."

The last one was a loss, but it probably shouldn't have been. Most observers thought that Cajun left fielder Matt Goulas slid his hand across the plate before being tagged by FIU catcher Jose Behar in the bottom of Saturday's ninth inning, scoring what would have been the winning run for a 9-8 victory.

Plate umpire Kennedy disagreed, calling Goulas out and a half-second later tossing second baseman Jordan Poirrier from the game for protesting the call. Poirrier had scored five seconds earlier on Chris Sinclair's two-out double, and Goulas was close behind trying to score a game-ender.

It wasn't the first time Kennedy was in the line of Cajun ire in the tournament. In UL's first tournament game Thursday, a non-call from Kennedy and first-base umpire Mike Grace led to a procedural botch, a two-minute umpire conference and a way-too-late out call that went against the Cajuns and eventually resulted in Grace tossing Robichaux.

Sun Belt rules required a one-game suspension for the Cajun coach, but the league also slapped him with punitive damages barring him from a one-mile radius from the stadium and adding on a gag order. Apparently, the league decided taking his first-born male child might have been too harsh.

It was notable that Grace was originally assigned to work UL's final game Saturday, but the assignments changed during the day and Grace was moved to another game. But both Kennedy and Grace kept working the tournament; apparently, their non-action Thursday that started the whole brouhaha wasn't enough to warrant similar punishment.

So when Kennedy struck again on the game-deciding play Saturday, Robichaux refused to join the fray when it would have been easy and oh-so-tempting to do so. He also wouldn't criticize a new tournament format that had his team playing an almost-meaningless game well into Saturday night.

"I was blocked out by all the kids," he said of the ninth-inning play at the plate. "A close call didn't go our way. It happens.

"We just didn't play good enough. When you come into any tournament you've got to play well, and we didn't. The bracket didn't have anything to do with us making 10 errors this week. We didn't finish the way we needed to finish, and that's our fault."

No excuses. No complaints. And he could have thrown out both of them in bunches. But that's not his style.