HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Louisiana-Lafayette spotted Southern Mississippi a four-run first-inning lead Saturday, but Ragin’ Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux didn’t lose faith in starting pitcher Carson Baranik.
The junior justified that faith, shutting out the Golden Eagles over the next eight innings, and the Cajuns put up a pair of big late rallies in taking an 8-5 victory in 12 innings in the middle game of a three-game series.
UL-Lafayette pushed across four runs in the eighth inning to come back from that 4-0 deficit and force extra innings, then put up three runs in the 12th inning to give the Cajuns (6-1) their sixth straight win.
The teams moved up the series finale to Saturday night, and the Cajuns won 9-5, giving them a three-game sweep in Hattiesburg.
In Saturday’s first game, senior first baseman Chase Compton had a two-run single as part of the four-run uprising in the eighth, and he scored the eventual winning runs with another two-run single in the top of the 12th.
Those hits may not have meant much had Baranik not rallied back and checked USM (2-4) on three hits from the second through ninth innings after four of the first five Eagles scored in the first inning.
“He was getting his change and slider up,” Robichaux said. “Once he was able to get that down, he was able to turn the page and pitched well enough to make our four-run inning matter later on. He buckled down and we played good defense behind him.”
Compton’s first hit and Greg Davis’ sacrifice fly in the eighth made it a 4-3 game, and Seth Harrison’s two-out single brought home Compton with the tying run. Neither team scored until each pushed across a single run in the 11th, but UL-Lafayette leadoff hitter Jace Conrad lined a single off reliever Ryan Milton’s leg to open the 12th. Ryan Leonards reached on an error, and reliever Jake Winston hit Nick Thurman to load the bases. Evan Powell’s infield grounder forced out Conrad at the plate.
But Compton followed with a single through the right side to score Leonards and Thurman, and one batter later, Michael Strentz had his second straight sacrifice fly for an 8-5 lead. Cajuns reliever Matt Hicks retired three in a row in the bottom of the 12th for his first save of the year.
The Cajuns had taken a 5-4 lead in the 11th on Strentz’s first sacrifice fly, but USM loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of that inning. Dylan Burdeaux’s single to right scored a tying run, but reliever Reagan Bazar (1-0) struck out Andrew Furr and forced Nick Dawson to pop up, sending the game to the 12th inning.
“(Bazar) gave us a chance to win,” Robichaux said. “He gave us another at-bat. With these hitters, you know they’re going to eventually come up with a big inning.”
USM got hits from Michael Sterling, Mason Robbins, Tim Lynch and Burdeaux in the four-run first inning, but Baranik had a stretch of 14 straight batters retired and faced only three over the minimum over eight innings.
UL-Lafayette, which took a 6-2 win in Friday’s series opener, was stymied by Eagle starter Cameron Giannini and his two-hit effort through six innings before the Cajuns got to the USM bullpen for the second straight night.
“We’ve got some little things to take care of,” Robichaux said, “but I’m enjoying watching the way the guys are competing on the road.”