LAFAYETTE — Carson Baranik took the stress off Louisiana-Lafayette’s lineup here Friday night and remained perfect at the same time.
The junior right-hander threw six scoreless innings at Arkansas-Little Rock in the opener of the teams’ Sun Belt Conference series, and the Ragin’ Cajuns bullpen did the rest on the way to a 7-0 win over the Trojans.
The top-ranked Cajuns (32-4, 12-1) had been involved in two slugfests in earlier midweek games, and UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux was looking for his team to get back to what he called “real” baseball.
Baranik (8-0) more than did the job, scattering five hits and fanning six, and relievers Chris Griffitt and Matt Plitt shut down UALR (13-18, 3-10) the rest of the way.
Baranik walked the game’s first two batters before retiring 10 of the next 11. He left after Drew Merten’s leadoff single in the seventh, but Griffitt forced a double-play grounder and Plitt struck out four and allowed two hits in the final 2.1 innings.
“I think I had more nerves than last week,” said Baranik, who was making his second Friday night start. “On Friday, you know you’re getting their best arm and their best effort. But once I settled down, everything turned back to normal.”
Robichaux added: “Carson did a great job of doing what he normally does. We needed to win one like this. Those midweek games, we put our hitters under a lot of duress. But this team knows how to win in different ways.”
The Cajuns scored single runs in each of the first five innings, including a leadoff homer by Evan Powell in the second inning, before Chase Compton’s suicide squeeze bunt with the bases loaded scored two runs in the seventh.
Ryan Wilson, Jace Conrad and Powell all walked with one out in that inning, and all three runners broke when Compton bunted on a 2-1 count. Wilson scored from third and Conrad from second on the putout throw to first.
“All I was thinking about was executing,” Compton said. “They gave me the sign on the second pitch (fouled off), and again on the fourth. It’s a little tougher with the bases loaded because you can’t let the pitcher handle it ... you have to get it down the line more.”
It was the second time this season that Compton had brought home two runs with a squeeze bunt, and the third time in his career.
“We practice that all the time,” Robichaux said. “When it works to perfection, it’s a beautiful thing.”
UL-Lafayette got all the runs it needed off UALR starter Travis McDonald (2-4) on the first of two Dylan Butler RBI singles in the first inning, this one scoring Ryan Leonards after he reached on a one-out bunt single. Butler also plated Seth Harrison with a two-out single in the third to make it 3-0, and Blake Trahan’s two-out single scored Powell in the fourth.
“Two-out hits aren’t easy,” Robichaux said. “Our whole goal with two outs is to take some more from the pitcher, get a hit or make him throw some more pitches. This team’s very good at that.”
Butler had to leave the game in the top of the fifth when he ran into the right-field wall in foul territory. He had to be taken off by cart but was diagnosed with only a deep bruise and was back on the field on crutches after the game.
“I was really comfortable in the box,” Butler said. “I felt like I was on the way to 5-for-5 until the wall decided differently.”
The teams will play the middle game of the series at 6 p.m. Saturday and will wrap up the three-game set at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Friday’s win, coupled with Arkansas State’s 5-0 loss at South Alabama, gives the Cajuns a four-game lead in the Sun Belt standings going into Saturday’s play.