LAFAYETTE — For the second straight night, the Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team followed the formula that coach Tony Robichaux was looking for. And for the second straight night, the Ragin’ Cajuns wound up on the winning side against Georgia State.
The Cajuns backed up a solid pitching effort with even better defense Friday, doing enough offensively to capitalize on some Georgia State mistakes in a 7-3 win at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
“If we pitch and play defense, it’ll take the pressure off our hitters,” Robichaux said. “That’s what we talked about coming out of the LSU game. Pitch and play defense and take your chances.”
Sophomore starter Gunner Leger (3-1) was not at his best for the Cajuns (14-9, 5-3 Sun Belt), but he let only three of his 10 base runners to score in five innings, and Brian Mills picked up a pair of crucial RBI singles to lead the charge offensively.
“I thought Gunner did a good job (for) not having his best stuff; you could tell he wasn’t sharp,” Robichaux said. “But I thought he did what a good veteran sophomore does: He kept you in the ballgame.”
For the second straight game, senior third baseman Joe Robbins hit a first-inning homer, and this time the ball left the park.
With two outs, Robbins tagged a 3-2 pitch over the left-field wall for his seventh home run of the year to give the Cajuns a 1-0 lead. Robbins entered the year with three career home runs, all of which came last year.
The Panthers answered with runs in the second and third innings to take the lead, but both innings could have yielded more damage if it weren’t for the Cajuns defense.
Georgia State (12-11, 2-3) opened the second with three straight singles to load the bases. The Panthers pushed home the tying run on an RBI groundout, then decided to test Mills’ arm on a fly ball to medium depth in left field.
Mills caught the ball on the run and fired home. The throw was off the mark, but it hit the mound and bounced right to catcher Nick Thurman, who applied the tag for the out.
Leger walked No. 9 hitter Justin Jones to start the third and, after a sacrifice bunt, he scored the go-ahead run on James Clements’ RBI single. But the next batter, Joey Roach, bounced into a 1-6-3, inning-ending double play.
Georgia State wasn’t ready to match the Cajuns defensively. The Panthers committed three errors in the game, and they were costly.
Thurman led off the Cajuns third with a ground ball that squirted under Jack Thompson’s glove at first base, and he motored to second as the ball trickled into foul territory. A throwing error by the catcher, Roach, put Thurman at third base, and he scored easily on Derek Herrington’s sacrifice fly to center.
That didn’t hurt as much as what happened in the fifth inning.
After a Mills single scored Stefan Trosclair to give the Cajuns a 3-2 lead, Brenn Conrad hit a lazy fly ball to shallow left field that would have been the third out, but the ball bounced off Jones’ glove, keeping the inning alive.
Robbins then walked to load the bases, and Steven Sensley was hit by a pitch to force home a run. A wild pitch brought one more run home to give the Cajuns a 5-2 lead.
Mills followed that with another RBI single in the next inning — just the Cajuns’ fourth hit — and Brenn Conrad followed with an RBI single of his own to push the lead to 7-2.
For the second consecutive night, the Cajuns had more runs (seven) than hits (six), but those hits again came at the right time.
“We really feed off momentum,” Mills said. “When we have momentum behind us, we have hit after hit after hit. As long as we get a hit to get started and build momentum, get the crowd in behind us, I think we’ll have a lot more multiple hit innings.”
Jevin Huval pitched 2.1 scoreless innings to earn his second career save. Freshman right-hander Nick Lee will get the call Saturday at 11 a.m. as the Cajuns look to secure their first Sun Belt sweep of the year.
Kasuls out; Clement back soon
Robichaux said freshman shortstop Hunter Kasuls broke his hand in Thursday night’s game and will likely miss a month. Brad Antchak started in his place Friday and performed well, turning a pair of double plays and making a tremendous diving catch.
Robichaux also said senior outfielder Kyle Clement, who broke a bone in his forearm earlier this month against UNO, took batting practice with the team.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Robichaux said. “Is he game ready? No. But he’s swinging. That’s a good sign. ... I think he’s day-to-day until he thinks he’s ready.”