HOUSTON — UL-Lafayette had a chance to take a fourth-inning lead Saturday in what became a 5-3 loss to Texas Tech in 10 innings at Minute Maid Park.
That was before an untimely timeout.
The Ragin’ Cajuns had rallied from an early 1-0 deficit when Joe Robbins drew a leadoff walk and Brenn Conrad had a hit-and-run single and moved to second on an error to start the fourth. One out later, Kyle Clement’s ground ball scored Robbins to tie the game and sent Conrad to third.
Ishmael Edwards took a called strike on a 2-1 count, but plate umpire Myron Miller lost track of the count and delivered the “punchout” signal for a third strike. Texas Tech catcher Tyler Floyd rolled the ball back to the mound and the Red Raiders were running off the field when the mistake was realized — but by that time Conrad alertly scampered home.
“I saw the catcher throw the ball out to the mound,” said Conrad, who had two hits Saturday and leads the Cajuns with a .526 average. “Everybody was walking off, and nobody was close enough to pick it up and run and tag me out, so I figured I’d take it.”
However, Conrad was sent back to third base by the umpires, prompting an argument from Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux that resulted in his ejection. Postgame comments differed on exactly who called time.
“The kid (Floyd) rolled the ball on the ground when he saw strike three,” Robichaux said, “and when he saw we were going to score, that’s when he called time. He (Miller) just said that he called time after the called third (strike).
“To me, the fault of an umpire is when you make one mistake, you don’t throw somebody out of the game when it’s your bad. A good umpire wears it.”
Edwards grounded out two pitches later to end the inning. Associate head coach Anthony Babineaux coached the remainder of the game.
He’ll be back
Robichaux will be eligible to return to coach during Sunday’s 6:05 p.m. tournament finale against Rice.
Sun Belt Conference rules formerly required any coach ejected from a game to serve a mandatory one-game suspension. However, Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said Saturday that rule no longer exists, and that the league follows the NCAA Rules policy on suspensions.
NCAA rules call for umpires to file reports as soon as possible after games when a coach or player is ejected. Unless Robichaux is cited for anything other than “unsportsmanlike conduct,” those rules do not call for a suspension.
Hogan a hero
Freshman Hogan Harris, who came on to relive UL-Lafayette starter and former St. Thomas More High teammate Wyatt Marks in Saturday’s sixth inning, was rock-solid in his second appearance.
Harris, rated Louisiana’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 5 left-handed pitcher nationally by Perfect Game last spring, struck out the only batter he faced, pinch hitter Hunter Hargrove, to end that inning. He then fanned Red Raiders hitters Ryan Long, Michael Davis and Tyler Floyd all on swinging third strikes in the seventh.
After a bunt single and a sacrifice bunt to start the eighth, Harris fanned Stephen Smith for the second out before Cajuns closer Dylan Moore came on for the final out of that inning.
“He can be a Friday night guy for us; he can be a closer for us,” said Robbins, whose sixth inning home run tied Saturday’s game 2-2. “He can be whatever he wants.”
Harris had also relieved Marks in the seventh inning last Saturday in what became a 6-2 win over Sam Houston State. He entered that game with UL-Lafayette leading 2-0 and allowed an RBI triple, but retired the next five batters he faced and the Bearkats managed only a sacrifice fly in the ninth after the Cajuns built a 6-1 lead.
“He’s getting better now at being able to mix and set that fast ball up,” Robichaux said. “When the score was where it was last week he could just throw fast balls. I thought he did a better job of staying in his lanes and mixing in the breaking ball and the changeup.”
Harris and Nick Lee, the right-hander from South Beauregard who will get Sunday’s start against Rice, were regarded as the state’s top two prep pitching prospects last year.
“He’s going to be special,” Robichaux said. “He and Nick, with time and continued grooming, and continuing to be in this atmosphere, that can do nothing but help these two freshmen.”
Lee (0-0) will make his second straight Sunday start. He threw four innings in a 13-3 win over Sam Houston, allowing three hits and two runs while fanning three and not figuring in the decision.
The Cajuns changed their lineup from Friday night’s opener against TCU, with Robbins moving back to third base after one game starting at center, and moving into the two hole after leading off the previous four games.
He responded with a three-hit game including the leadoff homer in the sixth inning, and the junior from Pineville has not had nine hits in UL-Lafayette’s last five games including two triples and two home runs.
Senior Brian Mills also returned to left field after sitting the last two games, and responded with two hits while reaching base three times. His two-out single and an accompanying Red Raiders error allowed Nick Thurman to score from first base for a 3-2 lead in the seventh.
Rice is next
The Cajuns wrap up participation in the Shriners Classic in Sunday’s tournament finale against Rice. The Owls took a 3-3 record into Saturday’s late-night game against TCU.
Rice had a three-game win streak snapped in Friday’s late game, falling to Arkansas 5-2. The Owls lost two of three at home to Arizona to open the season but won mid-week games over Texas State and Dallas Baptist going into the Shriners tournament.
The opponent will be a familiar one for the Cajuns, who took two wins over the Owls in last year’s NCAA Regional played at the nearby University of Houston. UL-Lafayette scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning to rally from a 6-2 deficit and take a 7-6 win over the Owls in the regional opener, and then won a 5-2 decision in the regional finals to advance to the Super Regional round in Baton Rouge.
Senior left-hander Blake Fox (0-1, 4.91) is slated to pitch for Rice. Fox had an 18-0 record in his first two seasons with the Owls and went 8-2 as a junior last year, and held the Cajuns to the two runs through seven innings in that 2015 regional opener before being relieved before the Cajuns rally.