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Baseball: Hit streak second to winning for UL junior

Cajuns’ Alexander has hit in 21 straight games, but title is priority

Among all of baseball’s records, the marks involving consecutive streaks may be the most difficult to obtain, or to perpetuate.

UL junior Xavier Alexander is within striking distance of one of those records, and the New Iberia product may be in possession of one of the Cajun marks by the end of this weekend’s Sun Belt Conference series at Florida International.

The fact that he’s hit safely in 21 straight games – every game in which he’s hit the field in his college career – isn’t the driving factor this weekend, though.

"It’s conference play," Alexander said Friday, "and it’s different in conference play. There’s an urgency to win that’s way higher than a normal weekend series. You’re playing for something, playing for a championship, and that can get pretty tough."

It’s also an experience that Alexander hasn’t had since his senior year at Westgate High, when the Tigers advanced to the Class 4A championship game before falling to DeRidder. His Paris Junior College team wasn’t in contention for any such titles, and Alexander watched as a redshirt last season.

"I get pretty fired up about it," Alexander said of conference play, which nears the halfway point for UL this weekend when the Cajuns (21-5, 7-2) face FIU’s Golden Panthers (15-13, 2-4). "I’m looking forward to getting into championship play at the end of the season. It’ll be nice to see a championship like that come home."

UL opens the series at FIU’s University Park at 6p.m. today, with Saturday’s and Sunday’s games set for noon. And by the time the three games are over, Alexander has a chance at UL’s school record for consecutive-game hitting streak.

He’s currently tied with Pete Guajardo for the second-longest streak, with Guajardo hitting in 21 games spanning the 1990 and 1991 season. The only longer streak is the 23-game mark of Chris Webb set in the 1996 season.

"I didn’t think about it a whole lot until it got to around 14 games," Alexander said. "Honestly, I lost count. But everybody on the team mentions it to me now, in the weight room, wherever. Devon Bourque reminds me about it every day. It’s a good thing to have, but team success is way better than any individual."

Alexander sees most of his playing time opposite Bourque in UL’s middle infield, so there’s plenty chance for conversation there. And UL’s had plenty of game opportunities, with five wins last week and a current six-game win streak going into tonight.

"Practice is good," Alexander said, "but there’s nothing like the real situation, game reps, live at-bats, live ground balls. That’s always better. We’ve got so much talent on this team, there’s no set positions and no set starters. We’ve all got our roles."

Alexander’s most recent role has been hitting. He’s at .314 for the season with hits in each of the 21 games he’s played, and he’s had to continue the streak twice in games where he didn’t start and had only one at-bat. Four times he’s had a hit in his final at-bat in a game.

He’s had an almost equal number of hits off lefthanders and righthanders, although he admits he’d rather face the righties that throw a lot of fast balls than the soft-throwing southpaws.

"With Coach Szefc (assistant coach and hitting coach John Szefc), you learn more about hitting," Alexander said. "He gives you more of a plan. You’re not just getting up there and trying to get a hit. He teaches you to know your boundaries."

Few expected Alexander to see as much action as he’s seen (19 starts in 26 games) at the start of fall practice. But at the plate, there’s no arguing with consistency.

"Being consistent is a major part of playing this game," he said. "You have to stay consistent to be in the lineup and to keep winning. We all try to do the same things, the same routine. We have our hitting system, and we all try to stay on the same path. It’s a whole team thing."

 

Leslie Westbrook/lwestbrook@theadvertiser.com

Xavier Alexander takes a practice swing while on deck Feb. 13 as UL takes on Nicholls State during their season opener at M.L. "Tigue" Moore field.

 

UL at. Fla. International

 

UL (21-5, 7-2) at Fla. International (15-13, 2-4)

6 p.m. today, noon Saturday and Sunday, University Park, FIU campus, Miami

 

  • Radio: KPEL-AM (1420) and online at www.espn1420 .com Friday, KPEL-FM (105.1) and online at www.kpel1051 news.com Saturday-Sunday with Jay Walker, air time 30minutes before first pitch. TV: None.

     

  • Tickets: Available at University Park gate one hour before first pitch.
  • UL’s longest hitting streaks

    No. of Games Player Dates of streak

    23 Chris Webb April 6-May 15, 1996

    21 Pete Guajardo April 28, 1990-March 10, 1991

    20 Dallas Morris Feb. 27-April 1, 2005

    20 Butch Harris Feb. 13-March 13, 1989

    20 Benny Burke March 14-April 15, 1986