LAFAYETTE — Really, it was a lose-lose situation for Texas-Arlington in the bottom of the ninth.
With the go-ahead run 90 feet away, should the Mavericks have pitched to All-American Blake Trahan, or should they have taken the left-on-left matchup and pitched to the hottest hitter in the Louisiana-Lafayette lineup?
The Mavericks chose the latter, intentionally walking Trahan, and Kyle Clement burned them with an infield single he fought off his hands on a 1-1 offering from Jake Wilcox. Clement’s teammates sprinted out of the dugout to mob him at first base after the winning run crossed the plate in the Cajuns’ 3-2 victory Saturday night at Moore Field.
“I actually kind of hit it off the handle a little bit and it got some cue ball spin on it,” Clement said. “So I knew I had a chance to run it out. I ran hard and beat it out.”
Clement has two or more hits in each of his past five games, and he has raised his batting average 138 points during April to its current .343.
“He’s probably the hottest hitter on our team right now,” Trahan said. “He didn’t hit it hard, but he finished it.”
The Cajuns (27-15, 12-7 Sun Belt) have now won five consecutive games and will look to match their season-long win streak Sunday. UT-Arlington fell to 17-24 and 8-12.
“They’re just playing good solid baseball right now,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said of his players. “We got good pitching, we got good defense, we pitched against a three-run inning. … We did everything we needed to do to win and we got the timely hit.”
The Cajuns wouldn’t have been in that position without an excellent performance from starter Evan Guillory, who stifled the Mavericks over seven innings.
The Mavericks didn’t have many chances against Guillory, but they put together a nice two-out rally with the bottom of their order in the second inning to push the first runs of the game across the plate.
Guillory recorded two quick outs after a leadoff walk, but No. 7 hitter Christian Hollie started the rally off with a bloop single to left-center on the first pitch he saw.
“Walks don’t help anybody, free bases aren’t good,” Guillory said. “After that it kind of spiraled on me.”
Catcher Dalton DeLeon and third baseman Eric Tate followed with singles of their own through the left side of the infield, bringing home two runs.
As has been the case often lately, the Cajuns had an answer immediately.
Back-to-back one-out singles from Evan Powell and Nick Thurman gave the Cajuns runners at the corners, and they opted to create their own offense from there. The Cajuns executed a double steal to perfection, with Thurman forcing a throw to second as Powell broke for home. The throw to the plate was late, and Thurman made it to second safely.
Thurman scored easily on Trahan’s two-out single to center, tying the score at 2 through two innings.
But the pitchers would take over from there.
After getting knocked around a bit in the second, Guillory went into cruise control. He retired the UT-Arlington side in order in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, needing just 19 pitches to do so.
While Guillory had his usual low-90s fastball working, he was doing most of his damage by keeping the ball down in the zone and, like Gunner Leger the night before, taking advantage of the Mavericks aggressive style at the plate.
“They swung first pitch a lot,” Guillory said. “First pitch we just went fastball out and kept it on the ground.”
In that three-inning stretch, Guillory induced six ground-ball outs. Many of which went to Trahan, who set a school record with 10 assists.
“I told him just to pitch with a little more command and really go after hitters,” Trahan said.
Mavericks starter Brad Vasser did the opposite but was similarly effective.
UT-Arlington’s freshman southpaw allowed only two base runners in his final three innings of work, and six of the nine outs he recorded in those innings came on lazy fly balls.
Both teams’ bullpens picked up where their starters left off.
Chris Charpentier (3-3) entered for Guillory with the score tied in the top of the eighth and retired all six batters he faced to earn the win.
“I’m glad for him, because he’s kind of been a hard luck guy,” Robichaux said. “He came in tonight and did exactly what we needed him to do.”
The Mavericks replaced Vassar with right-handed sidearmer Jacob Moreland (3-2), and the dramatic shift in how the ball was coming at them seemed to throw the Cajuns off.
Moreland fired three innings of near perfect relief but was charged with the loss after allowing a single and sacrifice bunt to start the bottom of the ninth.
The Cajuns will send freshman Wyatt Marks (4-0, 3.29) out to the mound as they aim to complete the series sweep Sunday, with first pitch slated for 1 p.m.