Some Thoughts from the Weekend – From the Bird’s Nest
The first three games are in the books for Ragin' Cajuns Baseball.
And, as there will be just about every weekend, there was the good...and the not so good.
Here are my thoughts on what I saw this weekend..
THE GOOD-- Start with the lefthanders. Gunner Leger and Dalton Horton were both pitching after layoffs of more than a year. And, both were solid. Leger did not allow a run; Horton allowed just one in their five inning stints. They combined to walk five hitters, which will need to come down, but allowed just five hits combined and just one run.
In addition, head coach Tony Robichaux had to be pleased, overall, with his bullpen, especially his newcomers. Jacob Schultz, Connor Cooke and Chance Stone all pitched well. Austin Bradford gave up the game winning hit on Friday but got a save on Sunday. Robichaux said he was concerned about quality bullpen depth and there's still a lot of baseball to be played. But what we saw was encouraging.
There wasn't much to say after game one as far as the offense was concerned, but that had everything to do with Bryce Elder. The Texas sophomore was brilliant. But in the other two games, the Cajuns scored 13 runs, hit .262 and had an on base percentage of .391. You can win with those numbers. In addition, after game one, the Cajuns had more walks and hit batsmen (13) than they did strikeouts (10). You can win with that, too.
There's some good speed on this team and if you like to see men in motion, you're going to like watching this team. The Cajuns were 8-9 in stolen bases in the three games. It will be a big surprise if this team doesn't steal over 100 bases this season.
The Cajuns offensive numbers didn't blow anyone away, but let's put things into perspective. The Cajuns batted .232 with 14 runs scored on 22 hits. They had a combined 17 free base runners and struck out 23 times. Compare that to last year's opening series against Texas when the Cajuns batted .143 with a combined 5 runs on 13 hits. They only had five free base runners all weekend and struck out 25 times.
I'd call that improvement.
And, here's another number to be proud of: 16,222. That's the number of fans that were in Russo Park this weekend. That's the best attendance for a three game series in history. The atmosphere was regional-worthy and, from all accounts, the fans from Texas were impressed. It was simply the best regular season atmosphere ever, not involving LSU.
There was way too much traffic on the base paths in the series. The Cajun pitching staff walked 20 batters and hit two more. Walks drive Robichaux crazy and you can bet that will be a point of emphasis going forward. Texas had a .395 on base percentage in the series. That, to me, was the most glaring..and concerning...statistic.
Brandon Young had a tough outing on Saturday. He issued a two out walk in the second inning (another thing that drive Robe right up a wall) and then hit a lot of bats. By the time the Cajuns finally got the third out, five runs had crossed the plate on five hits...three of them for extra bases. Young is better than that, but there was nothing good about his outing.
Equally concerning was the performance by Jack Burk on Sunday. He pitched a scoreless sixth, but issued a walk and hit a batter. The next inning, he gave up a walk and a three run homer. The Cajuns are going to need Burk to make important appearances. His outing Sunday, combined with what we saw toward the end of last season, is concerning.
I'm not worried about the Cajuns' defense, but boy, it was certainly less than stellar. The Cajuns, who made only 48 errors all last season, made seven in the series. Two of them came when outfielders let balls get by them. Only one of the runs given up was unearned in the series, but it was a rough weekend for the defense. Thankfully, It is probably an aberration.
The Cajuns got some clutch hits in a pair of four run innings. But when they weren't having the big innings, they were squandering chances. Louisiana was 0-15 with runners in scoring position. Outside of the two big innings, the Cajuns scored on three sacrifices, a double steal and a ground out. Tony Robichaux talks about the timely hit all the time. There's a prime example. In addition, the failure to get a bunt down in game one might have cost them the game.
Lots to be happy about. Lots to improve upon. We'll see how this team does moving forward. But all in all, it was a better opening weekend than in 2018