LAFAYETTE — Through 6½ innings, UNO was vastly superior to Louisiana-Lafayette at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Then everything changed.
Back-to-back home runs sparked a four-run rally in the seventh inning, and the Cajuns tacked on two more in the eighth before handing the ball to sophomore closer Dylan Moore, who nailed down a 7-4 win with a 1-2-3 ninth inning against the Privateers.
“We started out a little sluggish. ... But we pitched and played defense ... and offensively we got loosened up as the game went along and swung the bat with a lot more arrogance,” coach Tony Robichaux said.
Trailing 4-1 as they entered the seventh inning, all the Cajuns (5-3) had managed was a pair of infield singles against Privateers left-hander Bryan Warzek. Their next two hits not only got out of the infield, they got out of the park entirely.
Right fielder Ishmael Edwards drilled the first pitch he saw over the right-field wall for his first career home run, and Joe Robbins followed by crushing a 3-1 pitch over the left-field wall for his third homer of the young season, chasing Warzek from the game.
“That was the big momentum shift that we had. ... As soon as Izzy hit his home run, you could feel it in the stands,” Robbins said. “Momentum came.”
Their teammates kept up the barrage. Against right-handed reliever Ryan Leone, four of the next five batters reached base.
Derek Herrington — who entered the game in the third inning after center fielder Kyle Clement was hit on the hand by a pitch — laced a sharp single into center field to score Brenn Conrad and tie the game at four.
“He came in tonight when Clem went down,” Robichaux said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do as a team.”
After pinch hitter Steven Sensley drew a walk, freshman Dylon Poncho plated Herrington for the go-ahead run with his first career hit, a single through the left side. Poncho also entered as a mid-game replacement. It was a stunning turn of events considering the way the first two thirds of the game went.
The Privateers (6-2) picked up four hits and two runs in the first three innings against highly regarded Cajuns freshman left-hander Hogan Harris to take an early lead. They kept that going against reliever Will Bacon (1-0), picking up three consecutive one-out hits in the seventh to push the lead to 4-1.
That lead would’ve likely been greater had the Cajuns not played their best defensive game of the season. The Cajuns killed most of the Privateers rallies with double-play balls, turning double plays in all.
“We did a good job all night of stopping their momentum and never letting them have a big inning, then we were finally able to break it up at the end,” Robichaux said. “And when we got our momentum they weren’t able to stop it.”
But Warzek was not giving the Cajuns many chances to make a dent in UNO’s lead. He confused the Cajuns hitters by mixing up his speeds and keeping them off balance, and the only run the Cajuns were able to scratch across the board in the first six innings came with the help of an error.
“He had a two-seam on the outside corner that ran away, then he’d come back with a changeup,” Edwards said. “Two good pitches that can halt an offense for a little bit.”
The Cajuns will travel to Lake Charles to face McNeese State on Wednesday night, with sophomore right hander Evan Guillory (0-1, 6.23) set to get the start. McNeese will counter with left-hander Austin Sanders (0-1, 6.75).