LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux wanted to get several of his pitchers some work going into next week’s Sun Belt Conference tournament.
Saturday wasn’t the way he and the Ragin’ Cajuns would have planned it, but that goal was accomplished, and his team will still go into the tournament riding a hot streak.
Seth Harrison’s RBI single in the bottom of the 14th inning gave the Cajuns a 6-5 win over UL-Monroe in Saturday’s regular-season finale as UL-Lafayette matched its school record for wins, finished its regular season on a six-game winning streak and took its sixth sweep in 10 conference series this season.
The Warhawks had rallied from a 5-2 deficit to tie the game 5-5 in the top of the ninth inning, and the state rivals battled through four scoreless extra innings before Harrison’s shot to right field off ULM reliever Tyler Bray scored Michael Strentz with the game-winner.
“This game was just the definition of us,” Harrison said. “Regardless of what happens, we’re going to keep grinding.”
The Cajuns (49-7, 26-4 Sun Belt) — the top seed in the league tournament, which begins Wednesday in Mobile, Alabama — used eight pitchers. Little-used Riley Cooper, Chris Charpentier and Martin Anderson (1-0) combined to check ULM (22-34, 11-19) on two hits with four strikeouts in the final five innings.
“Our young bullpen grew up for us today, and it came at a good time,” Robichaux said. “These are guys that haven’t had a lot of work, and we wanted to get them some. If we stay in the tournament and in postseason long enough, we’ll need them.”
Said Strentz, who caught all 14 innings: “We tell them all the time, don’t let the other team overwhelm them. They showed what they’re capable of doing, now in the tournament and in the regional they’ll have that confidence.”
Harrison’s hit made a hard-luck loser of Bray (8-5), the Warhawks closer who came in to start the seventh inning and ended up throwing a season-long 7.1 innings. He only allowed five hits to the Cajuns in that stretch and allowed only one runner to reach second base in that time until the 14th inning.
Strentz looped a first-pitch fastball into center field in the bottom of that inning and moved up on Chase Compton’s sacrifice bunt. Blake Trahan was intentionally walked, but Bray’s first pitch hit Ryan Leonards to load the bases with one out. Harrison followed with his 57th RBI of the season.
“I was thinking fastball and I was going to swing no matter what,” Harrison said. “I just wanted to put something into the outfield.”
Even with the loss, ULM still qualified for the league tournament thanks to Arkansas-Little Rock’s loss to Arkansas State earlier in the day.
The Warhawks took a 1-0 lead off Cajuns starter Cody Boutte on back-to-back doubles by Keelin Rasch and Chet Simoneaux in the first inning. Those were the first of a school-record seven doubles for ULM, and Ross Moore and Jacob Stockton also had back-to-back doubles in the fourth for the Warhawks’ second run.
In between, though, three infield hits from Greg Davis, Ryan Wilson and Strentz and sacrifice flies by Compton and Trahan gave UL-Lafayette a 2-1 second-inning lead off ULM starter Chad Miller. Jace Conrad’s RBI double and a Davis sacrifice fly made it 4-1 in the third, and Strentz had a leadoff home run in the fourth for a 5-2 lead.
ULM scratched back within two on Rasch’s third double, one of his five hits for the game, that scored Kodie Tidwell in the fifth, and Moore’s second double plated Dalton Herrington one inning later to make it a one-run game.
In the ninth, Harrison came on to pitch but walked Stockton, and Cody Stone’s sacrifice bunt and two wild pitches by Harrison scored pinch runner Vincent Dellocono with the tying run. Harrison worked out of a bases-loaded situation in that inning before Cooper gave up one single in his two innings, Charpentier allowed one runner on a walk in two innings and Anderson gave up a single and a walk before striking out Herrington to end the 14th.
“Coach Robe preaches for us to not get ready, but to stay ready,” Harrison said. “Those young guys saw their hard work pay off. You can’t ask for a better bullpen than we got today.”