Baseball: Cajuns, Rebels prepare to engage in friendly showdown
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 6, 2014
His counterpart is someone of whom he evidently thinks quite highly.
UL baseball coach Tony Robichaux, after all, seemingly can’t say enough nice things about Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, whose Rebels visit the Ragin’ Cajuns this weekend for a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional with a College World Series invitation on the line.
“Mike’s a very good coach, a personal friend of mine,” said Robichaux, UL’s head coach since 1995. “I’ve got a lot of respect for what he does and how he does it.
“He’s played for a great coach (Skip Bertman) and a great university at LSU. He was a catcher; those guys understand the game, they understand the pitching side of things. And he’s very good at what he does.”
Bianco played at LSU from 1988-89, and captained the Tigers’ ’89 College World Series team.
Ole Miss, where he’s been since 2001, is Bianco’s first head coaching job. He also was an assistant from 1998-2000 at McNeese State, where Robichaux played and coached prior to coming to UL, and at LSU from 1993-97.
ONE MORE OUTING
After dropping a 1-0 first-round decision to Jackson State in last weekend’s double-elimination Lafayette Regional, UL starting pitcher Austin Robichaux couldn’t be certain he’d get another start this season.
Yet Robichaux, the Cajuns’ scheduled starter tonight, was sure he would.
“It means a lot to me,” he said of UL winning four straight Regional games to stay alive.
“There’s was no doubt in my mind after that first game that we were gonna pull it through. But just to be able to throw one more time – it’s a great feeling.”
SWEATING IT OUT
Despite high heat, heavy humidity and very real dehydration concerns, UL catcher Michael Strentz worked all but one inning of UL’s Regional games last weekend.
“Catching five games in four days was tough,” the Comeaux High product said, “but I did it, and I’m ready for this weekend.”
Tony Robichaux isn’t quite sure how his catcher pulled it off, especially, he joked, because Strentz “sweats in the air conditioning.”
NOT SWEATING IT
After going 1-0 this season against LSU, 2-1 vs. Alabama and 2-0 vs. Mississippi State in the Regional, the Cajuns don’t seem concerned about having to run through another SEC team – Ole Miss – to get to the CWS.
“That’s fine,” Strentz said. “We played SEC teams throughout the season, and we’ve done, actually, very well against them.
“We’re not really very worried (about that). We don’t care about what the name is across the chest. We’re playing for our own team, and we play our game.”
HICKS IN THE PEN
UL senior Matt Hicks (8-1, 1.43 ERA) started four midweek games this season – the first four college starts in the career of UL’s all-times saves leader.
But he’s back to working out of the bullpen since the postseason got under way, and will continue to do so.
“We moved him back to the pen because he kind of didn’t want to start any more, and we kind of wanted him to go back to the pen anyway,” Robichaux said of Hicks, who has played more of a middle-relief role this year than his 2013 closer role. “So, he’s worked out very good for us.”
Hicks pitched 5.0 scoreless relief innings to get the win in last Sunday’s Regional win over Jackson State.
TAKING NO CHANCES
Mississippi State’s solid arms last weekend had the Cajuns taking more pitches than they normally do behind hitting coach Matt Deggs’ instruction.
With Ole Miss’ strong pitching, there could be more of the same this weekend.
“It’s easy to get out of control in the box sometimes when you’re this amped up and have this much adrenaline flowing through you,” said UL’s top hitter by average, left fielder Caleb Adams (.387). “So I wouldn’t say it was hard to handle (so many take signs) at times.
“But it does kind of get aggravating sometimes when you get a take, then they throw a cookie right down the middle,” Adams added. “(But) whatever Coach (Deggs) thinks is best is what we’re gonna do.”
Don’t for a second think whatever pressure the Cajuns may be feel this weekend will get in the way of their good times.
“I’m having more fun now than I ever had in my life, on any team,” said second baseman Jace Conrad, a Lafayette High team who played on Lafayette’s 2005 Williamsport Little League World Series team.
Senior third baseman Ryan Leonards vows to maximize his enjoyment of the series.
“I’m looking at this as it’s my last weekend I’m going to be able to play at The Tigue,” he said. “So I’m trying to have as much fun as I can.
“Whether we win or not, this is the last time I’ll be here (playing). Four years is coming to end, and I’m trying to have as much as fun as possible, because this is the best place to play baseball.”