LAFAYETTE — Arkansas State proved Friday that it doesn’t always matter how much ammunition you have at your disposal; it’s how you use it.
Five of the Red Wolves’ first seven runs came across the board in innings that started with two outs. The Cajuns, meanwhile, weren’t able to strike for a big inning in a 10-4 loss.
“You’ve got to shut the faucet off, and we didn’t do that,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “They got a lot of two-out hits, we had five walks and three hit batters. You can’t do that — especially with a team that’s not going to score a ton of runs.”
The Cajuns got plenty of base runners against Red Wolves starter Tyler Zuber (3-2) — particularly when Zuber struggled with his command early — but they couldn’t connect on a big hit to break an inning open.
Freshman left-hander Gunner Leger (3-1) mostly cruised through his first three innings, allowing just two base runners. He kept that going into the top of the fourth, getting the first two batters to fly out on the first pitch they saw.
But a promising start unraveled from there, partially because of failed execution and partially to some bad luck.
Leger jumped ahead of Arkansas State left fielder Collin Massanelli 1-2, but he lost control of a breaking ball and plunked him.
The Red Wolves wouldn’t let him get away with the mistake pitch.
Tanner Ring followed with a bloop single that just barely cleared Greg Davis’ glove at the back edge of the infield, setting up a two-run double by Joe Schrimpf down the left-field line to give Arkansas State (11-12, 3-6) a 2-1 lead.
The Cajuns (13-10, 5-4) answered quickly when Brian Mills clobbered a 1-2 pitch over the wall in left-center field to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. It was Mills’ first career home run.
But Leger went through another rocky and somewhat unlucky inning in the fifth. No. 9 hitter Jeremy Brown joined Ring by blooping a ball just over Davis’ glove, and he raced to second as the ball rolled into foul territory in right field.
A walk opened up the double-play ball, but Zach George drilled it back up the middle and Leger reflexively tried to snare the ball. It deflected off his glove and caromed precisely into the vacated space created by a moving second baseman Brenn Conrad, scoring Brown.
The Red Wolves tacked another run on the board when George collided with Conrad as he was attempting to field what would’ve been an inning-ending ground ball.
Conrad lost possession of the ball as he was trying to apply a tag, allowing a run to cross the plate to push the Arkansas State lead to 4-2.
The Cajuns answered almost every Red Wolves rally with one of their own, but they were never able to bring more than one run across in an inning.
It was the first losing decision of Leger’s career. He was pulled after allowing four runs in five innings, but the Cajuns were still just one run back when they lifted Leger.
“We kept the game where we needed it,” Robichaux said. “We just let it get away at the end with the bullpen.”
Will Bacon was the first to come on in relief but was plagued by some of the same issues that chased Leger. He gave up a solo home run with two outs in the seventh — and then, after striking out the first two batters of the eighth, Bacon allowed back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases.
Robichaux pulled Bacon for Riley Cooper, but a passed ball and a pair of walks plated two more Red Wolves runs.
“We can not give people free bases,” Robichaux said. “It’s going to be tougher for us to recover because we don’t have the firepower that we had last year. We’ve got to keep the score down.”
Arkansas State put the game out of reach with a three-run ninth inning.
The Cajuns picked up just six hits on the evening, just one away from tying a season low. Shortstop Blake Trahan picked up one of those hits, extending his hitting streak to 14 games.