A late Louisiana-Lafayette rally was not enough to overcome a barrage of extra-base hits by LSU, which pounded three homers to beat the Cajuns 8-6 in the Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation Classic on Tuesday night at Zephyr Field in Metairie.
The Cajuns (15-11) busted out of a midgame slump against LSU reliever Russell Reynolds (2-0) to score four runs in the seventh inning, and they brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but LSU (24-5) retired six of the final seven batters to secure the win.
“LSU was on top of their game tonight; they were swinging it well,” Cajuns shortstop Blake Trahan said. “Our pitchers kept pitching, we kept playing defense and we kept putting good at-bats together. Finally, it broke through for us and we made it a game.”
Reynolds came on in relief of starter Kyle Bouman in the second inning, and outside of a blip in the fourth, he dominated the Cajuns lineup. At one point, Reynolds retired seven straight in his 4.2 innings of relief.
But the Cajuns started to figure Reynolds out in the seventh, and they chased him with a pair of singles to open the inning. LSU went to its bullpen, and the Cajuns opened the floodgates, scoring four runs to cut the LSU lead to two.
But it was too little, too late. The Cajuns’ best chance to draw even came in the ninth, when they led off the inning with a Brian Mills single up the middle, but LSU turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
“They never quit,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said of the Cajuns. “We thought we had the game in hand, but they kept fighting back.”
Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux, while disappointed his team didn’t win, got exactly what he was hoping to get out of the game. His inexperienced team — especially the seven young pitchers who played Tuesday — was thrown into the fire against a top-five opponent in front of more than 10,000 and didn’t falter.
“I thought we played a good ball game,” Robichaux said. “If we just pitched better earlier, this was a winnable game. That’s what you wanted out of this, to try to develop these young pitchers to see what pressure is, see what a regional is and what we want to aspire to.”
LSU didn’t waste any time putting runs on the board against Cajuns starter Connor Toups (1-2). Jared Foster ripped a double down the left-field line to lead off the LSU first, then scored on Bregman’s fly ball to shallow right field that second baseman Stefan Trosclair fielded with his momentum going toward the fence.
Conner Hale followed by hammering a double off the wall in right-center, and he was chased home with a Kade Scivicque RBI single.
The Cajuns responded immediately off Bouman, but Bouman didn’t help his own cause much. The Cajuns sandwiched a walk between a pair of singles to load the bases with nobody on in the second, and after striking out former LSU player Evan Powell, Bouman proceeded to walk in two runs to tie it.
But a big inning was defused on some tough luck. LSU took Bouman out of the game in favor of right-hander Reynolds, and Brian Mills smoked a rocket back up the middle right into LSU shortstop Alex Bregman’s glove.
Bregman caught it and flipped to second base for an easy inning-ending double play.
Two innings later, Mills came up to the plate again with the bases loaded, and once again he came up empty on a well-hit ball. This time, Reynolds speared it and tossed to first for the out.
“I thought those balls were going to come through,” Mills said. “They felt pretty good off the bat; I just got robbed.”
Back in the second, it didn’t take LSU long to regain the lead after a monster leadoff home run from Chris Chinea, who unloaded on a 1-0 Toups offering. He sent a no-doubter over the fence in left-center to chase Toups from the game.
LSU kept its foot on the gas by loading up on extra-base hits.
The Tigers put together a three-run third, powered a Bregman RBI triple and a mammoth two-run shot to straight-away center by Scivicque.
Bregman and right fielder Mark Laird connected on back-to-back two-out doubles in the fourth to push another run across, then Bregman destroyed a Wyatt Marks pitch for a solo homer in the sixth.
The Bregman homer was LSU’s 10th hit, and its eighth that went for extra bases in the game.
“We were pitching belt high early,” Robichaux said. “(LSU) reminds me a lot of us last year. They’re very physical 1 through 9, and they’re in every inning. What you’ve got to do is get the ball down, and early we got the ball up.”
Bregman fell a single shy of the cycle while driving in four runs in a 3-for-3 performance.
Trahan (17 games) and Trosclair (nine) extended hitting streaks to career highs in the losing effort.