‘Hot’ play helps Blake Trahan to Sun Belt tourney outstanding player

MOBILE, Ala. — Blake Trahan has “it,” according to Louisiana-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux.

“Coaches around the country know what ‘it’ is,” Robichaux said minutes after his Ragin’ Cajuns won their first Sun Belt Conference tournament title in 16 years. “Whatever ‘it’ is, he has it.”

The Cajuns sophomore shortstop put ‘it’ into the left-field scoreboard at Stanky Field Sunday afternoon, with his seventh-inning home run, breaking a 5-5 tie and propelling UL-Lafayette to a 6-5 win over UT-Arlington in the winner-take-all tournament finale.

That came after his two-run triple provided much of the difference in Saturday’s 4-3 win over Texas State that put the Cajuns (53-7) into Sunday’s title game.

It was little surprise that he was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

“I was just hot this weekend,” said Trahan, who finished 7-of-12 with four extra-base hits and five RBIs for the tournament. “We have talented hitters all through the lineup. The top of the lineup always carries us.”

Trahan hit in the No. 9 slot all week — likely, the only member of this summer’s Team USA lineup hitting at the bottom of his college team’s order. But UTA coach Darin Thomas knows the Kinder product’s value to the UL-Lafayette lineup.

“Trahan makes them go,” Thomas said after his squad saw their nation’s longest winning streak snapped at 10 games. “He was very deserving of the MVP.”

Trahan drew a bases-loaded walk in Sunday’s second inning that scored the Cajuns’ first run, after the second-seeded Mavericks had taken a 3-0 lead through the first one and one-half innings. That also set up leadoff hitter Ryan Leonards’ two-run single that tied the game.

But it was his seventh-inning at-bat that was the most memorable, when he sent the first pitch he saw from UTA reliever Chase Weaver for his fourth homer of the year.

“I was just trying to get on,” said Trahan, who brought a .338 season average into Sunday but was only 3-of-20 in UL-Lafayette’s five games before the tournament. “I was lucky that I got a pitch up and was able to drive it. I’ve been seeing it well.”

“BT got the big lick when we needed it,” Robichaux said when asked what the difference was in Trahan this week. “I think he went back to doing something simple from high school. When you get accolades, people want to see you perform at a higher level. When he came back to the dugout, I told him I was glad to see the good ol’ boy from Kinder back.

“He’s got all of that stuff going, he’s got Team USA on his shoulders this summer, but this week he went back to being who he is.”

In a sense, so did the Cajuns. A squad that led the country in slugging this season was held to only five hits Sunday, and UL-Lafayette had only two hits in the final six innings.

But led by Trahan at shortstop, where he had only nine errors in playing all 60 regular-season games, the Cajuns played errorless ball in the tournament’s final two games.

Robichaux’s mantra throughout his 20-year UL-Lafayette coaching career has been pitching, defense and timely hitting. Trahan provided the latter two throughout the tournament in becoming the first Most Outstanding Player winner for UL-Lafayette since major league veteran B. J. Ryan in 1998.

“He has an innate ability to slow the game down,” Robichaux said. “He does a good job of that, and when you do that it’s easier to play the game.”

Trahan himself didn’t realize the second-ranked Cajuns hadn’t won a conference tournament since that 1998 season until after Saturday’s win, but he said there was no plans to dog-pile after Seth Harrison came from center field to the mound and got Sunday’s final three outs.

“The idea was not to do that,” Trahan said. “We don’t want to dogpile until we get to the World Series.”

The UTA coach won’t be surprised if the Cajuns get that dogpile opportunity, with UL-Lafayette supplanting his team with a now-national-long 10-game win streak.

“I’ll be pulling for them,” Thomas said. “That’s a good team ... they don’t panic, and they can beat you a number of ways. I don’t see a weakness. And that kid at shortstop’s a really good player.”