As the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns defeated the No. 25 Alabama Crimson Tide by a score of 6-5, head baseball coach Tony Robichaux notched his 1,000th career victory Saturday. The veteran skipper has accumulated his victories over 29 years as a head coach, with 737 of those wins coming at the helm of the Ragin’ Cajuns program. The other 263 wins come from seasons with McNeese State and Southwestern Louisiana.
With this win, not only does Louisiana-Lafayette even the series with the Tide, but Robichaux becomes the 17th active Division 1 baseball head coach to establish 1,000 career victories. He is also 10 wins away from reaching College Baseball’s plateau of top 50 in all-time career wins.
“The important thing to me is that all of these wins have come at a mid-major school, and we have had to claw and fight for every one of them,” coach Robichaux said. “I have been fortunate to have some great coaches help me reach this milestone bringing in good class after good class. I’ve also been fortunate to see well over 100 of those wins come with my two sons on the team.”
Louisiana-Lafayette and Alabama put up 11 hits each in the match-up. Nick Thurman, a junior catcher for the Cajuns, had an outstanding day at the dish going 4-for-5 with two doubles with two RBI. Each one of Thurman’s hits came with two strikes at the plate and the hit and double totals are career highs for the junior.
Head coach Robichaux praised Thurman after the close victory.
“I’m really proud of Nick. This is what we expected of him when we brought him in,” Robichaux noted. “He had to play behind Mike Strentz the last two years, and now that he is getting more chances to play he is doing something about it.”
The victory Saturday came soon after an Alabama 6-4 win in the series opener on Friday. It was a late-inning affair, in which utility man, J.C. Wilhite hit a bloop single to right field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, that eventually helped propel the Tide to clip the Ragin’ Cajuns at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Louisiana-Lafayette bounced back the next day. The Cajuns struck early with three runs off Tide starter Will Carter as Tyler Girouard walked and ultimately scored after a one-out fly ball was dropped by center fielder Georgie Salem. Second baseman Brenn Conrad and senior Greg Davis followed with back-to-back doubles in the fourth inning. One of Thurman’s doubles came here in the fourth to make it a 3-0 lead for ULL.
Starter Greg Milhorn rolled through the first four innings, only facing two hitters over the minimum. However, in the fifth, White roped a double with two outs after Chance Vincent’s sac fly scored Wilhite to get on the board. By the end of the fifth the Crimson Tide had taken a 5-3 lead.
Alabama again threatened in the sixth inning. Reliever Riley Cooper came in to relieve Dylan Moore and eventually struck out Salem to finish off the inning. In the seventh, Louisiana-Lafayette put up three runs to take the lead. Davis lined another double to right as Conrad scored to make it a one-run ballgame. Thomas Burrows, then came on the bump for the Tide, but under no pressure, Girouard knocked a single to left field to tie the game. Thurman’s fourth hit of the day scored Girouard to take the lead in the late going.
Alabama didn’t back down and were determined to snatch another late-inning win when infielder Mikey White hit a base knock in the bottom of the ninth, while sophomore Casey Hughston followed with his third consecutive double.
The rally was quickly put to rest as reliever Colton Lee composed himself and got the tying run out at the plate, after a relay throw from the outfield trickled away from Conrad. White attempted to score from third, but third baseman Joe Robbins ran down the ball and threw to Thurman for a critical second out.
Lee then sealed the deal to tally his third save on the year with a game-ending groundout from Kyle Overstreet to conclude the game and clinch Robichaux’s milestone win.
“It’s surreal,” Lee said. “I already told my mom that this feels like a dream. I just wanted to make sure that if he (Robichaux) gave me the ball, that I could do it for him.”
Before Saturday night, the Ragin’ Cajun squad failed to give Robichaux his milestone victory twice, losing a 17-inning game to McNeese State last Tuesday and recently Friday’s series opener. In the series final against the Crimson Tide Sunday, the Cajuns throttled Alabama 14-2 to take the weekend series. Louisiana-Lafayette will now host Northwestern State, Troy and New Orleans in five straight home games that starts Wednesday.