Cajuns baseball team ranked No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball magazine

LAFAYETTE — Tony Robichaux may downplay it, but his Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team is a milestone No. 1.

Collegiate Baseball magazine released its weekly college baseball poll Monday, and the Ragin’ Cajuns vaulted from sixth to first after a five-win week and a sweep of Georgia State in Sun Belt Conference play.

“It really doesn’t matter to us,” Robichaux said. “Polls and rankings have never been one of our goals. But I’m really glad for the university and for all the people that have given their lives for this university.

“We’re glad for it, but there’s no trophy that’s being given today. I just worry about the next game.”

For the Cajuns, next up are two midweek home games against state rivals. UL-Lafayette (22-2), winners of a nation-leading 12 in a row and 22 of 23 since a season-opening loss, welcomes Northwestern State and Southern in Tuesday and Wednesday 6 p.m. games as part of a nine-game homestand.

The ranking announced Monday marks the first listing for a UL-Lafayette athletic team atop a Division I national poll in an NCAA-sanctioned sport. The Cajuns also moved from seventh to third in the Perfect Game poll, from fifth to fourth in the Baseball America poll and from eighth to sixth in the USA Today coaches poll.

All five teams ahead of UL-Lafayette in last week’s Collegiate Baseball poll lost at least once during the week, while the Cajuns swept a home-and-home series with Nicholls State.

“This one’s no different from last week,” Robichaux said. “We’ll take today (Monday) off and have another five-game week, which is tough sometimes to handle. Northwestern is playing good, and they’re well coached, and we had a tough game on the road up there. We know we’ll have to play good (Tuesday) night and against Southern on Wednesday.”

The Cajuns survived a 5-3 decision at Natchitoches in mid-February, part of the Cajuns’ perfect 10-0 road record. They will face Southern for the only time this year Wednesday. Robichaux said the No. 1 ranking can make a traditionally tough in-state contest even tougher.

“You run into one hot guy on the mound or hang one breaking ball, and it can change a game,” he said. “Baseball is so tough like that. It’s way more volatile than something like football and basketball, so we know we’re going to have to go out and play well.”

The Demons (12-10) took two of three from Stephen F. Austin in a Southland Conference series last weekend and have won five of six. Northwestern State is 11-7 since the loss to the Cajuns.

Southern is 4-12.

Robichaux said the Cajuns will use the same pitching approach as in last week’s Tuesday-Wednesday games when they won 5-1 and 7-1 over Nicholls State in games that were closer than the score. UL-Lafayette trailed 1-0 in the sixth in the first of those games, and the second was a 1-1 game into the 11th inning.

Senior left-hander Ryan Wilson (2-0, 2.30), who allowed three hits and struck out six in six innings against the Colonels, figures to get the Tuesday start. The Wednesday starter against the Jaguars is to be determined, but Robichaux said that senior right-hander and former Parkview Baptist standout Ben Carter (0-0, 0.00 in eight innings) is a possibility after throwing three shutout innings in starting against Nicholls.

Despite facing a Georgia State team that led the Sun Belt in hitting entering the weekend, the UL-Lafayette staff had only two innings in all five games in which they allowed more than one run.

“It’s rare that pitchers take the field having their best stuff. ... Rarely do you have everything,” Robichaux said. “What I was glad to see was that our pitchers competed and stayed on our pitching plan. We’d thrown 188 innings without giving up a home run, and we gave up only one three-run inning all week.”

Some of the reasons for those lofty rankings were shown in Monday’s Sun Belt statistics. The Cajuns lead the league in team hitting (.303) and team pitching (2.34 ERA) and are one-thousandth of a point off the league lead in team fielding (.975).

Outfielder Seth Harrison was named the league’s player of the week after hitting .429 with three homers and five RBIs for the week He also drove in the winning run in each of the final two games of the weekend series sweep.