With its offensive struggles through the first five games, and facing an early two-run deficit Saturday, UL-Lafayette team had to do something unconventional.
Scoring two runs on a squeeze bunt qualifies as unconventional, and Kennon Fontenot’s seventh-inning squeeze scored the eventual winning runs as the Ragin’ Cajuns took a 6-3 win over Wright State in the middle game of their three-game weekend series.
With the teams tied 3-3 in the seventh, Daniel Lahare and Gavin Bourgeois drew leadoff walks from Wright State reliever Mitch Gremling, and both moved up when a pickoff throw from catcher Bentley Jones went into center field. That brought Fontenot to the plate.
“We’ve been struggling with the bat,” Fontenot said, “and I knew I had to get that down and us get some runs.”
Fontenot put a 1-0 punt down off reliever Jason Foster, who mishandled the bunt as Lahare scored easily. When the ball got away, Bourgeois didn’t slow down around third and scored to give the Cajuns a 5-3 lead.
“Lahare got us going and we were able to get the squeeze down,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said, “and they threw the ball around and kind of opened the door for us.”
It was left for Cajuns closer Logan Stoelke to close the door on the Raiders (1-4), when he entered with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth. Reliever Brock Batty had hit two batters sandwiched around a bunt single by J.D. Orr, but Stoelke came on to strike out Gabe Snyder and Zach Weatherford to end the inning.
Even the second strikeout became an adventure, when Weatherford swung and missed and the ball got away from UL-Lafayette catcher Kole McKinnon. But Weatherford walked away toward the Wright State dugout before realizing the ball was at the backstop, and by the time he recovered McKinnon chased it down and threw to first for the third out.
“That’s a good rule for little leaguers,” Robichaux said. “Make sure you run on a strikeout. There, the runner didn’t run and that gave us the opportunity to throw him out. That was huge.”
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Cajuns (2-4) and gave them their first win at the newly renovated M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field. The teams will play the final game of their first-ever series at 1 p.m. Sunday, weather permitting.
The Cajuns trailed 3-1 halfway through Sunday’s game, after Tyler Stover’s first-inning sacrifice fly provided a 1-0 lead. The Raiders came back with two in the second on Weatherford’s RBI single and Chase Slone’s ground ball, and Alex Alders made it 3-1 in the fifth when he scored on Cajun starter Nick Lee’s wild pitch.
Lee gave up four hits in the first two innings but then retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced. He fanned seven and didn’t walk anyone, but did hit three batters.
“We got away from pitching and defense last night,” Robichaux said of Friday’s 8-2 loss, “but today Nick did a great job of settling in and keeping the game where it was.”
The Cajuns finally got to Raider starter Zane Collins in the sixth when he loaded the bases on two walks and a single, and his bases-loaded walk to O’Neal Lochridge made it 3-2. Hunter Kasuls’ one-out ground ball plated Stover with the tying run before Fontenot’s two-run squeeze one inning later.
Kasuls added an insurance run in the eighth with a one-out solo homer, just the second of the year for the Cajuns, and Stoelke retired the side in order in the ninth for his second save. He got the final out in last Sunday’s 2-1 win over Texas in UL-Lafayette’s other win this season, after throwing only one inning in his junior season.
“We work while we wait,” Stoelke said. “I knew the time was going to come to get my chance. We’re taught to stick to our system no matter what happens and trust it, and if you stick to it, it always turns out like it’s supposed to.”