No. 1 Louisiana-Lafayette’s hopes of advancing to an NCAA super regional rested largely on the left arm of Ryan Wilson.
The senior from Owasso, Okla., delivered.
He started the winner-take-all final of the Lafayette regional on Monday night at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field and set the tone for the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 5-3 victory against Mississippi State. He pitched 6.2 strong innings for the victory. It was Wilson’s sixth start of the season and first in 45 days.
“He came through with a big outing,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “He’s had a little bit of a tender shoulder so we held him out the last two weekends. We saved him for this moment.”
Wilson (5-0, 1.69) last started at UT Arlington on April 19 and got a no-decision. He allowed five hits and two runs, walking none and striking out one 5.2 innings in a 9-5 Cajuns victory. Since then, Wilson made nine relief appearances and was scored on just twice.
UL-Lafayette will make its third-ever appearance in the super regional round next weekend, but its first as a home team. The Cajuns were guaranteed a super regional host berth, pending winning ther regional round, courtesy of their No. 6 national seed.
The Cajuns made their first super regional in 1999 after sweeping three games in the Houston regional, and returned to Houston to play Rice in that super regional round. Those games were played in the Astrodome, and UL-Lafayette won the first game 12-8 before losing 10-1 and 8-3.
UL-Lafayette was granted its first regional host berth one year later in 2000 and beat McNeese and East Carolina twice to win that title and advance to Super Regional play at Columbia, S.C. against No. 1-ranked South Carolina. The host Gamecocks won the first game there 6-3, but the Cajuns came back to win 7-1 and 3-2 to earn their first and only College World Series berth.
UL-Lafayette had to win four straight games to claim its own Regional title after falling 1-0 to Jackson State in the opening round. Of the 16 teams advancing to Super Regional play, the Cajuns are the only one to survive after losing a regional opener.
Trahan stays hot
Cajuns shortstop Blake Trahan was 10-for-17 in the Lafayette regional with six runs scored, five RBI and five walks.
That continued Trahan’s hot hitting from the previous weekend when he was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. In Mobile, Alabama, Trahan was 7-for-11 at the plate and had the game-winning homer in UL-Lafayette’s 6-5 win over UT Arlington in the tournament final.
He had the team’s top average in the regional, but Jace Conrad had the most impressive power numbers. In five tournament games, Conrad, a junior second baseman was 11-for-23 with 10 RBIs, eight of those coming on two home runs and a double.
Cohen plays ace early
Mississippi State coach John Cohen didn’t need to use All-Southeastern Conference left-hander Jacob Lindgren in any of the Bulldogs’ first three games in the regional, leaving him with an ace reliever up his sleeve for the finale.
Lindgren had not allowed an earned run in his past 21.1 innings, and Cohen was ready to go to him at the first sign of trouble for starter Lucas Laster.
That sign came in the top of the third when Laster allowed a run and loaded the bases on three walks and a single, then fell behind Caleb Adams 1-0 with two out. Cohen brought in Lindgren, who almost immediately threw a wild pitch that allowed Conrad to score.
Lindgren then walked Adams to reload the bases and threw another wild pitch, which allowed Blake Trahan to score. Lindgren then struck out Chase Compton to end the inning.
The scoreless streak ended when the Cajuns scored an unearned run in the fourth.
Conrad delivers early again
Conrad continued his habit of driving in early runs for the Cajuns on Monday night.
The Sun Belt Conference player of the Year singled home the game’s first run in the top of the third.
He hit a second-inning grand slam in an 11-1 victory against Jackson State on Sunday afternoon and a two-run homer in the bottom of the first of a 14-8 victory against Mississippi State on Sunday night.
Getting to know each other
The back-to-back meetings for the Cajuns and the Bulldogs with a super regional berth at stake could accelerate the development of a rivalry of the schools from neighboring states.
Before Sunday, these teams had never met in the postseason and had only met twice in baseball games. They split a pair of midweek games in 1991 in Starkville, Mississippi.
Mitchell’s first loss
The Cajuns were the first opponent to get to State All-Southeastern Conference left-hander Ross Mitchell in his four NCAA tournament appearances.
He got the loss in UL-Lafayette’s 14-8 victory Sunday night, allowing seven hits and six runs in three innings.
Mitchell had won each of his three previous games and had an earned run average of 1.89.
Tough at home
After Monday’s victory, UL-Lafayette’s all-time record at Moore Field was 826-317-2.
The Cajuns are 434-162-1 at Moore Field during coach Tony Robichaux’s 20 seasons, including a 31-6 record this season.
State failed in its quest to win a postseason championship for the fourth consecutive season. The Bulldogs won the NCAA Atlanta regional in 2011, the Southeastern Conference tournament in 2012, and the Starkville regional and Charlottesville super regional last season.
Les East and Dan McDonald contributed to this report.