LAFAYETTE — For five innings, J’Markus George and Southern had UL-Lafayette’s number. Then, with a little prodding from associate head coach Anthony Babineaux, the Cajuns hung a number of their own on the scoreboard.
Trailing 4-0 with just two hits to their credit as they entered the bottom of the sixth, the Cajuns’ bats awoke with a clatter in a five-run sixth inning.
The one-run cushion was enough for the Cajuns bullpen, which limited Southern (13-19) to just one base runner over the final three innings to preserve a 5-4 win.
As the Cajuns (25-15) prepared to take the plate in the sixth with just two hits and no runs on the scoreboard, Babineaux was ready with a challenge.
“We could’ve just sat there for the rest of the night and went, ‘Poor ol’ me,’ and felt sorry for myself,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “But instead (Babineaux) went down there and challenged the hitters. … And they jumped up and rose to the challenge.”
George hit No. 9 batter Jam Williams, then walked leadoff man Blake Trahan to start the inning. The Cajuns were faced with the decision of whether or not to bunt with Kyle Clement, their hottest hitter, at the plate.
They opted to swing away, and Clement rewarded them with a single through the left side, scoring Williams and starting a deluge of runs.
The next batter, Stefan Trosclair, brought in another run with a single off Southern third baseman Rivers Frederick’s glove to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and send Jaguars coach Roger Cador calling to the bullpen.
The new pitcher was met with similar results, though. Powell smashed one hard to the hole between the shortstop and third baseman, and this one too glanced off Frederick’s glove and rolled into shallow left-center, deep enough to allow the go-ahead run to score.
But for a while, it was anybody’s guess if the Cajuns would ever find any breathing room against George, who retired the first 10 batters he faced and he didn’t allow a runner past second base through the first five innings.
George brought his fastball only in the mid-80s, and he frequently threw his off-speed pitches to a Cajuns team that’s known to hunt fastballs.
“He was pitching everybody backward, and we’re a fastball-hitting team,” Powell said. “We like to get out there and get after the fastball. He was flipping some off-speed stuff in there and keeping our guys off-balance. It falls on our shoulders. We’ve got to stay on our approach.”
Right-hander Eric Carter overmatched Southern’s hitters in the first meeting between the two teams, striking out a career high 11. He got the start again, but the Jaguars were ready for Carter’s high-velocity fastball this time.
A two-run homer by Southern leadoff hitter Tyler Kirksey capped a three-run third inning, and three well-struck balls scored another run in the sixth to chase Carter from the game on the hook for the loss.
The Cajuns dodged a bullet in that sixth inning, as Marcus Tomlin never touched second on what would’ve been an RBI double by Jose DeLa Torre. He was originally ruled to have scored, but the Cajuns appealed, and Tomlin was declared to be out.
True freshman right-hander Logan Stoelke (1-1), who has spent much of the season on the shelf, allowed just one hit in 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.
Stoelke struck out a pair and induced four groundball outs, letting his defense do the work behind him.
“I just tried to keep it over the plate,” Stoelke said. “Let them get themselves out and don’t try to do anything too big.”
With the game on the line, Robichaux turned to closer Dylan Moore, another true freshman, despite the fact that Moore threw the night before against Southeastern.
“(Moore) threw about 15 pitches for us (Tuesday) night … so we didn’t want him to throw anything but for the win in the ninth. And Stoelke allowed us to do that,” Robichaux said.
Moore didn’t need many pitches to get the job done, though. He retired the side in order with a pair of strikeouts, needing 17 pitches to record his fifth save.
The Cajuns will stay home for a three-game series against UT-Arlington this weekend, with first pitch coming at 6 p.m. Friday. They’ll enter the game on quite a hot streak, having won 10 of their past 12. No. 10 might not have earned style points, but style points don’t matter in the standings.
“It wasn’t pretty by any means, but we have a saying over here,” Powell said. “‘You can’t ever win good enough.’”