TROY, Ala. – With a three-run lead, two outs and all-Sun Belt closer Dylan Moore on the mound in the ninth inning against Texas State, Louisiana-Lafayette was in complete control until all hell broke loose.
Two critical errors ignited a four-run last-gasp Bobcats rally, sending the Cajuns to a shocking 8-7 defeat in the SBC tournament opener.
“The momentum changes on you, and it’s sometimes tough to get back,” said Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux.
With runners on first and second, Texas State’s Granger Studdard lifted a high fly ball to left field for what would’ve been the final out of the game. But stiff winds from a rapidly approaching storm appeared to deceive Cajuns left fielder Kyle Clement, and the ball landed safely for a two-run error.
Robichaux wouldn’t go into specifics after the game what happened with Clement out in the field, and he was quick to point out that the team didn’t lose because of the play.
“It’s an emotional thing when a kid makes a mistake like that,” Robichaux said. “As I told our team, we win together, we lose together. This is not (Clement’s) fault.”
With the tying run now at second base and first base open, Moore pitched around cleanup hitter Tanner Hill and walked him, bringing Ben McElroy to the plate.
Moore looked like he got the ground ball he needed, but the ball got away from second baseman Stefan Trosclair as he attempted a backhand stop, loading the bases for David Paiz.
Paiz entered the at bat 2-for-4 with four RBIs, three of which came on a laser home run to left field in the fourth inning. Moore jumped ahead of Paiz 0-2 in the count, but after working a couple balls Paiz drilled an opposite-field two-run single.
“We just didn’t make the play,” Robichaux said. “Like I’ve said before 1,000 times, everybody calls this a team game until somebody makes a mistake. … The bottom line is you’ve got to overcome it and move on.”
The Cajuns were not able to muster a rally in the last of the ninth, though Clement represented the tying run after drawing a one-out walk.
Losing that way can shock a team into a funk, but junior shortstop Blake Trahan doesn’t think it will carry over into the rest of the tournament.
“You’ve just got to call everybody together and calm everybody down,” Trahan said. “As an individual, you’re out there on the field, you’ve got to be ready to make that last play. That’s all it comes down to, is that last play. You’ve got to make it.
“We didn’t do that today, and it’s nobody’s fault.”
With the loss, the Cajuns’ hopes of winning the tournament and clinching a spot in the NCAA tournament must come out of the loser’s bracket with every game serving as an elimination game. The Cajuns will face the loser of the UT-Arlington/Troy contest at 12:30 Thursday.
“We know that not many people give us a chance now after losing that first game, but we still believe that we can do it,” Trahan said. “We’re going to stay together as a team and go do it.”
The collapse soured what was a good game from the Cajuns to that point.
The Cajuns offense pounded out 11 hits, five of which went for extra bases. Trosclair belted a solo shot over the towering right field wall in the third inning, then followed it with an RBI double off that same wall in the seventh.
Freshman pitcher Gunner Leger didn’t have his best outing, allowing four runs in 5.2 innings, but he left with a 6-4 lead and reliever Will Bacon followed him with 2.1 innings of one-hit ball.
“We played a great game,” said Trahan, who had hits in his first three at bats. “We’ve got to come back tomorrow and play the same game, just like that. We’ve just got to finish it.”
One thing Robichaux said about his team all season is that he likes the way it bounces back from being down. It’ll now face its stiffest challenge to date.
“The thing you’ve got to remember is that in this game, throughout the year, you’ve got to sew yourself up,” Robichaux said. “You’re going to get cut. You hate when you cut yourself, but, you know, it happens from time-to-time in this game. So what we need to do is sew ourselves up, come back tomorrow and fight.”