Baseball: Lee's pitching, timely hits carry UL over South Alabama + special photo gallery
Grant Alexander, March 10, 2018
Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.
It's safe to say the Cajuns satiated his curiosity — with junior hurler Nick Lee tossing a no-hitter deep into the seventh inning, and the offense producing timely hits to escape with a 2-1 victory over South Alabama at Russo Park.
“The atmosphere from Wednesday night, you could still feel that atmosphere from 1 o’clock this afternoon to first pitch,” Robichaux said. “The question was could they let that go and play good tonight. I’m really proud of them for being able to leave what they had to leave behind from Wednesday night and get on with (this game) tonight.”
Lee retired 19 of his first 20 batters, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and he was acutely aware of it.
“I knew because the guys in the dugout were avoiding me and trying not to talk to me,” Lee said. “That doesn’t matter though, as long as we win. I just messed those three pitches up, but it ended up not mattering because we got a win."
The three pitches in question happened right after striking out his career-high ninth batter of the night. First he hit USA’s Brendan Donavan, ending a streak of 15-straight retired Jaguars. Then a wild pitch allowed Donavan to scamper down to second. Wells Davis then cracked a single to score Donavan from second, ending the no-hitter and pulling USA to within one run.
“There’s no change in mindset. It’s always I just want to give my team a chance to win, and I’m glad I was able to do that,” Lee said.
Lee struck out the next batter, then retired the side for the Cajuns in the eighth, but walked his first batter in the ninth to end his night after his 101st pitch.
In came the freshman Brock Batty to try to close out the game.
“We checked the lineup card and saw those three lefties stacked in there, so we came in with the freshman (Batty) and he did a good job for us,” Robichaux said. “That’s kinda where the development at Texas, the development against Mississippi State comes in; sometimes it can get a little ugly, but the more they grow and mature the more they can get in these moments again.”
Batty retired the next two batters, but walked the third, putting the potential tying run at third base with two outs. However, he was able to coax a harmless fly ball from Davis to end the game.
The Cajuns' two runs came from clutch hitting. First was senior Kennon Fontenot, who belted a bouncer past a diving second-baseman in the third inning to plate Gavin Bourgeois (1-0) with two outs.
“When you come through and get those big hits everybody gets a boost of confidence, so we just have to continue to build on that,” Fontenot said. “We had a rough little start, but we’re starting to get our confidence back and playing a little more free. We’re just having fun out there again.”
That fun is something Robichaux has tried to encourage with this relatively new team.
“You look for an ember, then you look for something that’s going to flame it and maybe catch fire on something,” Robichaux said. “Yesterday we had a very short workout and then showed them a movie. Sometimes you have to back away.”
For the players, backing off seems to have been the right move.
“We came out here and were banging the ball around a little bit,” Fontenot said. “We had a good time. (We) came out today with a little more bounce.”
That extra bounce can sometimes be the difference in a one-run game.
“Our biggest goal was to remember that (John) Wyndham’s hit on Wednesday night, will not affect anything tonight,” Robichaux said. “You’ve got to get off of last night and that’s what I was hoping for in growth factor. With 10 freshman and four JC guys — that’s 14 new people — and our two best leaders in the dugout in Gunner Leger and Handsome Monica, we got a lot of good stuff in that dugout.”
But having those leaders off the field has allowed others to find their place in the leadership hierarchy.
“Things are getting a little looser and that’s what you want,” Robichaux said. “I think we have better batt speed. I think we have the capability to drive some balls. We’ve just got to keep coming and not let the pitching and defense leave us because that’s what’s held serve for us so far.”
Lee showed that he had some good stuff outside of the dugout as well. He struck out a career high 10 batters, but that’s something Robichaux has been seeing all year.
“He’s been throwing with good rhythm and tempo,” Robichaux said. “All of his outings — even against Mississippi State — he was electric. When he can command that change up, it gets you off the fastball. It makes his fastball, which is 90 to 93, play really high. Then he starts to mix that slider in to give you a third variable.”
His teammates were very appreciative.
“What Nick went out and did tonight was incredible,” Fontenot said. “He went out there against a really good team and just shut them down. Hats off to him.”