LAFAYETTE — Nicholls State struck first Tuesday night, but Louisiana-Lafayette didn’t panic, and the result was a 4-3 come-from-behind win at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Brian Mills lashed a two-out, two-run go-ahead double to cap a three-run seventh inning and make a winner out of sophomore right-hander Evan Guillory (4-3), who claimed his third consecutive decision.
The Cajuns (25-12) have now won seven consecutive home games, and they swept the season series against the Colonels (16-22) both wins coming on the strength of a late three-run rally.
The Cajuns only had four hits and were trailing 3-1 in the seventh when the bottom of the order got things started against Colonels reliever Jake Smith (1-3).
Brad Antchak drew a one-out walk, and Nick Thurman followed it with a single into right field. The right-handed Smith was throwing the ball as hard as 97 mph, so coach Tony Robichaux went to his bench for fastball hitter Steven Sensley to pinch-hit for Derek Herrington.
A usually aggressive hitter, Sensley worked the count full before yanking a single through the right side, scoring Antchak and moving Thurman to third base.
“His at-bat was really good, because being a home run hitter, he could’ve gone for the three-run home run right there,” Robichaux said. “Yet he stayed in the count, saw every pitch and got him a pitch to finally hit in the back end of the count. He stayed on top of the baseball.”
The Colonels switched to right-hander Robbie Petty after the Sensley at-bat, but Mills greeted him with a booming double to left-center, scoring Sensley and Thurman to put the Cajuns ahead.
“A couple pitches before, I got jammed and hit a foul ball down the right-field line, so I pretty much knew they were going to challenge me with a fastball,” Mills said. “As long as I was on time and got an aggressive swing off, I was going to run into it.”
With the double, Mills extended his hitting streak to seven games. He has driven in 11 runs in those games.
That picked up Guillory, who rebounded nicely after allowing three runs in the third inning.
All of those runs crossed the plate with two outs, and the Colonels made Guillory pay for a few mistakes.
Guillory hit No. 8 hitter Alex Tucker with a 1-2 pitch, then Tucker took second and third on a pair of wild pitches. After Guillory struck out Dylan Manichia, the top of the Nicholls order did some damage.
Leadoff man Ethan Valdez drew a two out walk, and Joey Morales and Kyle Knauth followed with a pair of run-scoring base knocks to push the Colonels out to a 3-0 lead.
“We gave them the hit batter and the walk,” Robichaux said. “You can’t give people free stuff. They got the critical at-bat and got on top of us.”
Robichaux spoke with Guillory after the three-run inning and told him the team needed him to lock it down after that.
“We tried to get (Guillory) to understand you’re going to have to hold right here, and if we make a push, it’s got to be relevant,” Robichaux said.
Guillory responded. He got into a little trouble in the fourth and fifth innings, but did not allow a run to cross. He then only needed 18 pitches to get out through the sixth and the seventh innings.
“Coach (Robichaux) told me he was going to throw me until I couldn’t go any more,” said Guillory, who threw 96 pitches in the outing. “After the first three innings, he told me I needed to ... do a better job of keeping my pitch count down because we’ve got five games next week.”
Guillory has now gone at least seven innings in each of his last three starts, and Robichaux noticed that he’s gotten better at not allowing the game to get out of control after a rough inning.
“Tonight, he could’ve saw the hitters weren’t doing anything early and felt sorry for himself with a three-run inning and then all of a sudden start to let it get away from him,” Robichaux said. “But he didn’t do it, he showed some maturity and he kept us right there, and that enabled us to come back.”
Senior right-hander Eric Carter retired six straight after a leadoff walk to start the eighth inning to record his second save of the year.
Weather permitting, the Cajuns will be back on their home turf Wednesday to face McNeese State. The Cajuns’ starting pitcher is scheduled to be right-hander Jevin Huval (1-1, 2.41 ERA), and a win would be Robichaux’s 800th with the team.