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Baseball: Robichaux wants Cajuns to kill the bullpen ‘monster’ now

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Feb. 26, 2019

To open its 2019 season, the UL baseball team dropped a pair to then-No. 16 Texas — then took the final outing of a three-game weekend series.

The 1-6 Ragin’ Cajuns, though, now have lost four in a row — a midweek game at Louisiana Tech last Wednesday night, followed by Sam Houston State’s weekend sweep of UL.

Throughout the rough start, most of the damage has come late.

It started with UL giving up two runs in the 10th inning to the Longhorns, and one day later Texas scored what proved to be the winning run in the seventh inning.

Related: UL’s Robichaux not reading too much into Texas series

At Louisiana Tech, the Cajuns again went 10 — and lost 3-2 after an RBI-single up the middle scored the winning run from third.

At Sam Houston State, UL dropped both games of a Saturday double-header in walk-off fashion — first when SHSU put up three in the seventh followed by three in the ninth, and in the nightcap as the Cajuns yielded a three-run homer in the eighth and the winning run came across on a passed ball in the ninth.  

On Sunday, Sam Houston used a six-run eighth to break open a 3-2 game.

Related: UL drops two heartbreakers in doubleheader with Sam Houston State

More: Late-inning woes continue to plague Cajuns

All that in mind, Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux has a bullpen puzzle to put together.

He hopes to do so before it’s too late.

“Now, of course, having done something for three or four times, we’re gonna get labeled,” Robichaux said with reference to the late-game collapses. “And I think it’s gonna keep showing up again until we can solve it.

“We’re gonna pitch good innings one through six, then the monster’s gonna show up. But we’ve created it. So we’re the ones that are gonna have to kill it.”

To sign what he hopes is a death warrant, Robichaux plans to realign his bullpen this weekend, when UL plays host to Maryland for a three-game series on M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.

But first the Cajuns visit 2-5 Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday night, when several bullpen arms are likely to see some work.

“I think experience is gonna help a little bit,” Robichaux said, “but then maybe rearranging a few things will help also.”

More: Young Cajun arms prompt 2015 memories for Robichaux

Juco-transfer sophomore righty Jacob Schultz and sophomore righty Michael Leaumont both are candidates to move into regular late-inning roles.

Schultz has made three appearances so far this season, two of them starts, and has an 0.87 ERA with five strikeouts over 10.1 innings.

Leaumont has a 2.84 inning in 6.1 innings spread over two appearances, both out of the pen.

Another option is sophomore lefty Austin Perrin, who stepped in to start Friday night at Sam Houston after the decision was made to rest No. 1 starter Gunner Leger.

Leger missed last year with elbow and leg surgery, then went 5.0 scoreless innings against in his season debut.

More: Butterflies behind, Leger goes five in UL loss to Texas

More: With 630 days between games, painful layoff nears an end for Leger

“He’s one of the movable guys that can pitch in the bullpen or as a starter, whatever the case may be,” Robichaux said of Perrin, who relieved Leger against the Longhorns.

Robichaux said Monday that Leger will return Friday night against Maryland.

That should help the bullpen situation, because he’ll eat some innings.

But pitching through more and more late-game situations may simply be what some Cajun relievers need most.

UL lost its top two closers from a season

ago, Logan Stoelke and Sun Belt Conference career saves leader Dylan Moore.

Both were seniors.

Without them, experience is lacking.

More: Lots of questions for Cajuns pitching staff led by Leger

“That’s what you have when you lose guys like DMo and Stoelke,â€Â Robichaux said.

“You can take people for granted for a while, and then start to see the value of age and experience, especially late in the game, especially on the road.

“You can talk all you want,â€Â Robichaux added, “but … they’ve got to get in there, and they’ve got feel like what it feels like, and sense and see how fast the game really is.â€Â

That’s especially so with so many Cajun pitchers lacking NCAA Division I experience.

Juco-transfer Austin Bradford, pegged before the season to be UL’s top closer this year, didn’t get any work last weekend after giving up the game-winning hit at Louisiana Tech.

Reliever Jack Burk, who spent the season rehabbing his elbow, also is struggling.

More: Robichaux addresses UL position battles, team health

Usual starting right-fielder Orynn Veillon took the loss after giving up three runs in the ninth inning of the first game at Sam Houston, and juco-transfer Brandon Young took the loss after working the ninth in the second game of the doubleheader.

On Sunday, two freshmen — Connor Cooke and Chase Stone — and on-the-mend Caleb Armstrong all worked in the six-run eighth.

“I thought our hitters did a good job throughout the weekend (at SHSU),â€Â Robichaux said. “I thought our defense did a good job throughout the weekend. And I think our (starting) pitching’s done an exceptional job.

“We’ve just got to solve the back end of the bullpen — the seventh, eighth and ninth,â€Â he added. “That’s the No. 1 thing we’ve got to do.â€Â

Robichaux is pleased with some of the work he’s seen from his staff, especially Texas Christian-transfer starter Dalton Horton.

Now he seeks much more of the same from many more.

More: TCU-transfer Horton looks the part in UL win over Texas

“Horton’s been throwing very good, and Perrin’s been throwing very good, and Leaumont’s been throwing good, and J-Schultz has been throwing good,â€Â the Cajuns coach said. “We’ve just got to get these other guys that have not thrown well to help us out.

“What we’ve got to do is try to keep the hitters where they’re at and keep our position players playing defense, and then keep the starting pitching where it’s at, and then get some guys that can get back into the back end of the bullpen and keep the momentum of the game down.â€Â

Fortunately for Robichaux, it’s early enough in a 56-game game to potentially pull that off.

So for now, then, there is no panic.

“Development can be ugly,â€Â Robichaux said, “but you’ve got to stay on the process that it’s gonna take to try to grow this guys up.â€Â

More: UL preseason position breakdown



WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday

6 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field, Hammond

Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field, Hammond

RADIO: KPEL 1420 AM with Jay Walker (play-by-play) and Brad Topham (color)

KPEL 1420 AM with Jay Walker (play-by-play) and Brad Topham (color)

UL LEADERS: 2B Hunter Kasuls, .387; C Handsome Monica, .300, 6 RBI, 2 HR

2B Hunter Kasuls, .387; C Handsome Monica, .300, 6 RBI, 2 HR



More: With UL’s Monica back, Cajuns have plan behind plate