Cajun Baseball at Mid-Season – From the Bird’s Nest
With last night's tough loss to Southern Mississippi, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball season is now officially half over.
At times, it's been fun,.
Come on...wins over Texas, Vanderbilt, Tulane, LSU (twice)...you know you enjoyed those.
But at times, it's been frustrating:
A blown save against Texas, missed opportunities against Southern Miss, an umpire fiasco vs. Wright State, a bad inning at Georgia Southern, bullpen meltdowns against Arkansas State and Southern Miss...If the Cajuns had found a way to win half of those, they'd be 15-13 instead of 12-16. While that still isn't good by Cajuns' standards, it would still be a winning record against a tough schedule.
But, as Tony Robichaux says, it is what it is.
Is there reason to be optimistic? Of course. There is ALWAYS reason to be optimistic. Optimism is a choice. And, despite some of the struggles, there are things that give me hope for the second half of the season.
THE OFFENSE--Man, it was painful to watch early in the season. Too many strikeouts, too many lazy fly balls, too many bad at bats. But the at-bats started to get better even though the results did not. Now, we can see this team start to figure it out. Going into the first LSU game, this team was hitting .174. Right now they are at .220. We're starting to see more balls in the gaps (don't hold your breath for balls over the wall...not this season.) The top five in the lineup are becoming consistent hitters. The bottom is showing improvement. This isn't a team that will score a ton of runs. But they're going to score more in the second half than they did in the first. If you don't see the trend improving here, it's because you don't want to.
PITCHING--Hogan Harris is finally healthy and that gives the Cajuns four starters who would be weekend starters for just about every team in the league. Yes, Nick Lee and Jack Burk have been a tad inconsistent, but more often than not, they've been good enough to win. Colten Schmidt has been nails. And, Tony has finally been able to maneuver the rotation to where he'll be the Friday guy starting this weekend.
The bullpen, however, is another story.
Logan Stoelke has been very very good. Wait, add one more very. But he's been bothered by some inflammation and his absence has been felt in two recent losses. Austin Perrin and Brock Batty have been bright spots. But the two freshmen now have scouting reports out on them and it will be tougher for them to be shutdown guys. The realty is, there just aren't enough reliable arms in the pen, which is unusual for a Tony Robichaux club. This means Schmidt, Lee, Harris and Burk will have to get deep into games for the Cajuns to have a lot of success.
DEFENSE--There have been a few more errors recently, but this is a very good defensive club. But with this team on the razor's edge, it seems as though each error becomes a critical error. But this has been the most consistent part of this team and hopefully that will continue.
THE REMAINING SCHEDULE--Well, it isn't quite as tough, but the Cajuns have two more weeks when they have to play five games. There are rematches with McNeese, Southeastern and Tulane with all of them at Russo Park. Louisiana Tech is having a great season and the Cajuns have a pair with them. And, there's a game at home against UNO. Five of six at Russo. That's good.
And, of the seven remaining conference series, four of them are at home as well. The Cajuns still have to travel to Appalachian State, Georgia State and Texas State. But they get the two West leaders, UTA and Little Rock at home, along with East leader Coastal Carolina. ULM is much improved and they come to town as well.
The reality is, overall, the second half of the schedule should be kinder than the first half. Hopefully that will mean better play, more wins, and better confidence.
But the offense must continue to improve....because the lack of quality depth in the pen isn't going to go away.