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Baseball: Cajuns relish series victory; Farquhar Honored

Dan McDonald

The University of Louisiana baseball team wrapped up its biggest weekend series win of the season Sunday, and the Ragin’ Cajuns did it with the type of consistency that they’ve shown over the last six weeks.
UL took two of three wins over Troy University, wrapping up the series with a pulsating 6-5 victory Sunday afternoon. The Cajuns had only eight hits in that game, but for the third time in the series UL got hits from at least seven different starters.

For the weekend, the Cajuns outhit the Trojans 31-29 – quite a feat considering Troy went into the series ranked in the top 10 nationally in both batting average and slugging percentage. The Trojans also ranked in the nation’s top 10 in home runs, and UL out-homered them 4-2.

UL also committed only two errors during the weekend, neither of which figured in scoring and none in Sunday’s finale.
“We had to play 27 solid innings to win,” said Cajun coach Tony Robichaux. “Fortunately, we were able to continue doing the things that have been successful for us … we pitched, we played defense and we got some timely hits.”

That formula has been in place since March 31, when the Cajuns took a 12-11 overall mark and a 1-2 Sun Belt Conference record into a home series against Arkansas State. UL swept that series and has compiled a 20-5 record since that time, with three of those losses on Wednesdays following Tuesday wins during weeks when the Cajuns played two non-league games.

The weekend’s wins were the most emotional in that streak, not surprising since they came against the league’s first-place team and moved UL into a tie for the top spot.

“That kind of emotion has been building for a while,” Robichaux said. “We lost 16 seniors from last year, and it takes time to learn how to win and how to enjoy winning. This team knew that it was time to play with that kind of emotion.”

“You could feel it in the dugout, from the stands, everywhere,” said outfielder Alex Preciado, who had hits in each game including a two-run homer Sunday that provided a 5-4 lead. “The atmosphere was tremendous.”

“It came down to one pitch here and there,” said Troy coach Bobby Pierce. “They got the better of us (Sunday), but it was a great series for our conference and a great one for college baseball.”

FARQUHAR HONOR: UL claimed the Sun Belt’s Pitcher of the Week honor for the sixth time Monday – and it wasn’t a member of the weekend starting rotation.

Freshman righthander Danny Farquhar, whose relief effort Sunday led the Cajuns to the series-clinching win, became the fourth different Cajun pitcher to win the league’s weekly honor this season. Jason Fernandez and Hunter Moody have each won it twice and Buddy Glass once.

Farquhar (6-1) gave up two hits and one run in the final five and one-third innings Sunday while striking out seven and picking up the win in relief over the Trojans. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., product won two games during the week including a Tuesday win over Southeastern La., and for the week he fanned 11 and allowed five hits in 10 1/3 innings while allowing opposing batters a .143 average.

RPI STUFF: The two-of-three win over Troy didn’t do a lot to boost UL’s ratings percentage index (RPI) in the two most respected simulations of the NCAA’s RPI rankings.

The Cajuns moved from 57th to 53rd in the WarrenNolan.com listing and still ranks third among Sun Belt teams. Troy is ranked 28th and South Alabama 36th, while Florida International is 62nd in that ranking. WarrenNolan.com also has the Sun Belt ranked eighth of 30 leagues.

In the BoydsWorld.com rankings, UL is 56th in the RPI rankings, with Troy 29th, USA 39th and FIU 63rd. The rankings list the Sun Belt at No. 9 in the conference RPI rankings, down from eighth last week.

SUN BELT RANKINGS: UL leads the Sun Belt in pitching and defense in both the overall and conference-only rankings announced by the league office Monday.

The Cajuns hold a 3.17 overall team ERA, more than a full run ahead of South Alabama’s 4.45 mark, and UL moved ahead of USA in team fielding with a .969 mark for the season and just ahead of USA’s .968 percentage. UL’s team ERA is at 3.09 and its fielding mark is at .977 in league play only.

LAGNIAPPE: The Sun Belt holds a .609 winning percentage against outside competition, which ranks sixth among all leagues … Jonathan Lucroy’s seventh-inning RBI single Sunday, one which snapped a 5-5 tie and gave UL its eventual winning run, was the 100th of his two-year career … Two Cajuns – Jefferies Tatford and John McCarthy – had their first home runs of the season in the weekend series … UL doesn’t return to action until Friday when the Cajuns travel to face Middle Tennessee. It’s the first time this season that the Cajuns don’t have a mid-week game. Game times are 7 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Originally published May 9, 2006