TROY, Ala. — The Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team’s bats came to play, as did pitchers Evan Guillory and Chris Charpentier, and because of that, the Ragin’ Cajuns lived to play another day.
The Cajuns scored five runs on 12 hits, and Guillory and Charpentier carved up the Texas-Arlington hitters with 13 strikeouts in a 5-1 elimination-game win at the Sun Belt Conference tournament Friday night.
The top of the order was the fuel to the Cajuns’ offensive fire against the Mavericks. Kyle Clement, Stefan Trosclair and Tyler Girouard — the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters — combined to go 7-for-12.
“It makes it very tough on them,” Clement said. “They can’t really pitch around one guy to get to the next guy. They have to go at you.”
Girouard got things going for the Cajuns (36-21) in the first inning with a double off the wall in left field to score Clement from first. Before the Cajuns could cycle back through the lineup, Dylan Butler made it 3-0 with a two-run single back up the middle in the second. A sharp Clement single plated Butler later in the inning to push the Cajuns’ lead to 4-0.
They struck once more in the fourth, when Clement banged a two-out double off the wall in right field and was brought home by Trosclair’s single through the left side to make it 5-0.
UT-Arlington (24-32) finally found an arm to counter the Cajuns lineup in Zach Hobbs, who allowed only three hits in 4.1 innings to close the game, but it was too late.
“Our hitters did a good job early,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “They did shut us down midway through the game, but because of good pitching with Evan, we were able to get this one in. So now we survive and advance.”
The Cajuns will face Texas State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals, with a trip to Sunday’s championship game on the line. To get to Sunday, the Cajuns will need to beat the Bobcats twice. Robichaux said the Cajuns likely will start freshman Wyatt Marks or junior Will Bacon.
The Mavericks didn’t get on the board until the sixth inning Friday, when Matt McLean led off with a double to right-center and came around to score on Levi Scott’s one-out single.
That was all they’d get off the Cajuns arms, though.
Guillory said he knew he’d have to work deep into the game in a tournament setting where the Cajuns will have to play a season-high six games in one week if they wind up in the championship game. He fired a career-high 110 pitches in the win.
“When you get this late in a tournament and you’ve still got to work your way back through the losers’ bracket, this pitching performance is going to be real important,” Robichaux said. “Evan did a great job.”
Guillory had his strikeout pitch going against the Mavericks. With the season on the line, he struck out seven in six innings, ditching his changeup in favor of mixing his fastball with his breaking pitches.
“We knew this game was going to be one of my most important starts of the season, for us to continue the season,” Guillory said. “Before the game, me, (Robichaux and catcher Nick Thurman) sat down. Because I’d faced these guys before and had success against them, we just went with the old game plan, and it worked out well for us.”
With Guillory on top of his game, the Mavericks couldn’t find much breathing room. They advanced only four runners past first base in the entire game and were never able to string together an extended rally against Guillory.
Then Charpentier came in and made life even tougher, striking out six in three hitless, scoreless innings.
“He’ll run a fastball up there 88 to 90 (mph),” Robichaux said. “He’ll catch you napping inside if you’re not watching. He looks like he’s 10 years old, but he’s got a little bit of velocity behind that little body. He pitches a lot bigger than he really is.”
Pitching likely will continue to be key Saturday, but there’s one other factor for the Cajuns.
“I think having a chip on our shoulder,” said Clement, whose error in the ninth inning of the Cajuns’ 8-7 loss Wednesday jump-started a four-run ninth-inning rally for Texas State. “Game 1 didn’t go like we wanted it to; I specifically had a little blunder. But I think we can use that (Saturday).”