LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette calls it small-ball batting practice.
It came in handy Saturday night at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
The Cajuns effectively went to their bunting game to help produce three runs as UL-Lafayette defeated Arkansas-Little Rock 5-2 in the second of a three-game Sun Belt Conference series before 4,439, the season’s largest crowd.
UL-Lafayette (33-4, 13-1) scored its first run in the second inning after moving runners into scoring position on a bunt single by left fielder Caleb Adams, who placed the ball between the pitcher’s mound and first base.
Then in the fifth, a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Jace Conrad moved two more runners into scoring position, and the Cajuns put together a three-run inning.
Although his team leads the SBC in nearly every hitting category, UL-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux said the small ball mentality remains a part of the Cajuns’ mindset.
“We do a thing in practice with our hitters called ‘small-ball BP,’ where we are running, hitting and stealing, so we can play big or we can play small when the little things have to be done,” Robichaux said. “Our hitting coaches do a good job of getting our hitters to do more than just hit the long ball.”
Adams, the No. 5 hitter, said he wasn’t surprised to see third-base coach Matt Deggs flash the bunt sign with nobody out in the second and designated hitter Tyler Girouard on first.
“We want to be dimension players and we want to be able to do it all,” said Adams, who reached base for the 30th consecutive time this season, a team and career best. “Bunting is a big part of our game.”
Girouard moved to second on the bunt, and he and Adams triggered a double steal three pitches later. Girouard then scored the first run on a Chase Compton sacrifice fly to right.
Conrad’s sac bunt moved Blake Trahan and Ryan Leonards into scoring position in the fifth, and both of them scored on a Girouard single.
The Cajuns got solid pitching from left-handed starter Ryan Wilson and right-handed reliever Greg Milhorn, who threw the final two innings against the Trojans (13-19, 3-11).
“He’s real good out of the pen,” Robichaux said of Milhorn, who’s recovering from a stomach muscle injury. “We want to give him time to get back and compete at a high level.”
The win was the third time in fourth conference series that the Cajuns have gone into Sunday’s finale 2-0.
“We want to win that first two of three every weekend, because that is what a Super Regional entails,” Robichaux said. “Now as we go into the final game, we’re playing with house money.”
UALR scored its first run in the fifth when leadoff hitter Bryan Thionnet doubled off Wilson. Thionnet scored when Wilson threw wildly to Compton at first while fielding Petr Sila’s bunt.
Another throwing error allowed the Trojans to score again after Cajuns shortstop Blake Trahan fired wide to first, allowing catcher Drew Merten to score from second.
Wilson (5-0) allowed four hits after facing 17 batters.
The Cajuns complete theit series against UALR at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Robichaux said he plans to start senior left-hander Cody Boutte (4-0, 3.78 ERA).