LAFAYETTE — Right-hander Wyatt Marks became the third Louisiana-Lafayette freshman in as many days to pitch seven stingy innings, and his offensive teammates had his back as the Ragin’ Cajuns completed a three-game sweep with a 4-1 win against Texas-Arlington on Sunday at Moore Field.
With the win, the Cajuns (28-15, 13-7 Sun Belt) matched their season high by extending their win streak to six games. They did not commit an error and allowed only three runs during the weekend despite sending three freshman starting pitchers to the mound.
“When you start to play defense, pitchers are going to throw strikes earlier, and they’re going to live down (in the strike zone) because they’re not fearful that the ball’s going to be kicked,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “I think what you’re starting to see is the parallel between good defense and pitching.”
Like fellow freshmen Gunner Leger and Evan Guillory before him, Marks (5-0) took advantage of an aggressive Mavericks (17-25, 8-13) lineup in an efficient performance.
“You wanted to attack,” Marks said. “They like to pull the ball, so you wanted to attack outside. Once they got into the count, they tried to go (to the opposite field) with it, so you run it back inside.”
He needed just 82 pitches to get through seven innings, never throwing more than 18 in an inning, and he set the Mavericks down in order four times.
UT-Arlington had its chances, but Marks’ teammates had his back in the field, too. Marks needed just 12 pitches to cruise through the first two innings, but he ran into trouble in the third when the Mavericks connected on a single and a double to start the inning.
He momentarily lost control of his slider, and the Mavericks were teeing off on his fastball.
“He lost the slider; he wasn’t getting good enough extension,” Robichaux said. “When that happens, he became a one-pitch guy.”
With runners at second and third, leadoff man Matt McLean launched a double off the right-field wall. Although there wasn’t much doubt that McLean’s ball would land, UT-Arlington’s Eric Tate didn’t manage to score from second, and Marks got out of the inning with an infield fly and a strikeout.
The Mavericks threatened again in the fourth, when they hit three consecutive singles, loading the bases to start the inning. But shortstop Blake Trahan snagged Darien McLemore’s hard liner and fired to third base for a rally-killing double play.
“I wanted to give him a chance to work through something, not just yank him,” Robichaux said.
With the crisis averted — and with regained control of his slider — Marks settled into a groove.
Starting with Trahan’s double play, Marks retired 10 straight UT-Arlington batters. He threw 27 pitches in that span, and 21 of them found the strike zone.
With Marks dealing, the Cajuns offense busted out the big sticks to jump out to a lead.
Kyle Clement put the Cajuns ahead for good with a two-run, opposite-field homer in the third, continuing his recent offensive surge. The round-tripper was his fifth in the past seven games.
Back-to-back singles from Tyler Girouard and Dylan Butler in the fourth tacked another run on the board before Stefan Trosclair set the final score with a mammoth solo home run over the left-field wall in the fifth. Trosclair’s shot was his team-leading 10th of the year.
“My swing feels good; I’m confident,” Trosclair said. “Everything’s just clicking.”
Another of the Cajuns’ young pitchers, freshman right-hander Dylan Moore, allowed just one base runner in the final two innings to preserve the sweep with his sixth save.
The Cajuns will look to get some payback in their next contest, when they visit Nicholls at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Colonels handed the Cajuns a 3-1 home loss March 25.