LAFAYETTE — Handsome Monica had never been in a squeeze-bunt situation.
“I’ve never put bunts down in my life,” he said. “I’ve always been the big, strong guy that’s there to hit balls far.”
But his Louisiana-Lafayette teammates had confidence in him in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday.
“In practice, he gets every bunt down,” outfielder Kennon Fontenot said. “He’s pretty good with it.”
Monica got his bunt down at the right time, his squeeze plating pinch runner Jam Williams with the winning run as the Ragin’ Cajuns took a 4-3 win over Appalachian State in the final game of their Sun Belt Conference series at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Williams pinch-ran for Fontenot after his leadoff double in the ninth, and Brenn Conrad moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt. That brought up Monica, but not before coach Tony Robichaux talked to him in the on-deck circle.
“I said, 'If it presented itself as a squeeze, how confident are you that you can get the squeeze down?' And he said he could get it down,” Robichaux said.
With Williams moving down the line, Monica took a 1-0 pitch from reliever Matt Brill and bunted it down the first-base line. First baseman Conner Leonard tried to make a glove-sweep toss to catcher Chandler Seagle, but Williams easily beat the throw.
“I was feeling it,” said Monica, who has caught every inning this season. “I was a bit nervous; I’m not going to lie. Kennon did a good job of getting on second, Brenn did a great job of getting Jam over and it was time for me to step up and do my job.”
The Cajuns (11-6, 2-1) and Mountaineers were tied at 3 in the bottom of the ninth when Fontenot led off with a looping line drive that left fielder Tyler Stroup lunged for in left-center. Second base umpire Ray Miller immediately gave the “safe” signal and, while Stroup protested the call, Fontenot slid into second base.
The Cajuns were in position to win thanks to a stellar relief effort by Evan Guillory (1-2), who replaced starter Hogan Harris in the sixth and retired all 12 batters he faced. Guillory struck out seven and allowed only one ball out of the infield.
“Coming out of the 'pen, I have more of a charge mentality,” said Guillory, who threw 50 pitches in a 6-5, 13-inning loss Wednesday at Louisiana Tech. “I was throwing a little bit of everything, but my slider felt really good today — had a lot of bite to it, so I threw it more.”
Appalachian State (9-11, 1-2) took a 2-0 lead in the third on Brian Bauk’s two-run single. UL-Lafayette tied it against starter Luke Watts on Ishmael Edwards’ leadoff single and back-to-back doubles by Steven Sensley and Alex Pinero in the bottom half.
Seagle’s solo homer in the fifth gave Appalachian State a 3-2 lead, but Pinero had a one-out double in the sixth and Todd Lott followed with an RBI single that tied the score.