LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As good as Louisiana-Lafayette’s bullpen has been this season, the Ragin’ Cajuns appeared in solid shape in both ends of Sunday’s Sun Belt doubleheader at Arkansas-Little Rock.
That didn’t last long.
The host Trojans rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning in both games, pushing across a winning run in the opening game and the tying and winning runs in the nightcap to sweep the Cajuns 5-4 and 7-6.
UALR (6-8, 3-2) entered the doubleheader — forced by rainouts Friday and Saturday — hitting .202 as a team. On Sunday, the Trojans had double-digit hits in each game, and four of them came in the ninth innings.
The Cajuns held leads in both games and went into the ninth inning tied at 4 in the opener before Ryan Scott’s one-out RBI single brought home pinch runner Sam Vogel. Three hours later, UL-Lafayette led 6-3 entering the bottom of the eighth and 6-5 entering the ninth before three singles gave UALR the sweep.
“Our bullpen has been good all season long, and we didn’t get the job done today,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “It was easy when things were going good, and now this is going to be a good test because the hits are starting to fall in and the ball’s going over the wall for the other team.”
UL-Lafayette (10-7, 3-2) entered the day as the Sun Belt’s only unbeaten team — and also entered with a bullpen that had only given up eight runs in its past 60 innings over 12 games. That same bullpen allowed five earned runs and nine hits to the Trojans over 5.2 innings Sunday.
The staff had no answer for Trojans third baseman Tanner Rockwell, who had three hits in each game, including three doubles and a home run for a six-RBI day. Rockwell provided three RBIs in the final two innings alone in the nightcap, including a game-winning single that scored Scott.
The Cajuns hadn’t played since finishing a three-game Sun Belt sweep of Troy last Sunday; they had four days’ worth of games rained out in the past week, including two mid-week games. But Robichaux refused to cite his club’s inactivity.
“That’s an excuse, and we’re not looking for excuses,” he said.
UL-Lafayette held the 6-3 nightcap lead thanks to a three-run second inning on Blake Trahan’s two-run single and an RBI single by Brenn Conrad, and single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh. A double steal provided the first, Conrad’s squeeze bunt brought home the second and Joe Robbins’ seventh-inning single scored Tyler Girouard for a three-run advantage.
But UALR got two quick ones in the eighth when reliever Will Bacon hit Scott and gave up a two-run homer to Rockwell. Dylan Moore (2-1) came on in relief and struck out three sandwiched around two hits in that inning.
In the ninth, Petr Sila led off with a single and moved up on Jason Prevatt’s bunt. Scott followed with a clean single to left to score Sila with the tying run and moved to second on the throw to the plate, and Rockwell laced a double over left fielder Kyle Clement’s head to bring home Scott with the game-winner.
Rockwell also had an RBI double in the first inning when UALR took a 2-0 lead off starter Gunner Leger, but the freshman allowed only three hits and one run in the next four innings.
The Cajuns took a 3-0 first-game lead on Girouard’s first home run of the year, a three-run shot in the third off Cory Malcom. After Rockwell’s two-run double in the third cut the margin to 3-2, Robbins had a solo homer to lead off the fourth. From that point on, UL-Lafayette had one hit in the final five innings.
Ryan McSwain’s two-run homer in the sixth off Cajuns starter Evan Guillory tied the score before reliever Colton Lee pitched a pair of scoreless innings. In the ninth, though, Lee hit Drew Merten to lead off, and pinch runner Vogel moved up on an intentional walk to Sila and another hit batsmen before Scott delivered the single that snapped the Cajuns’ six-game winning streak.
“We just weren’t ready to play today, and that’s our fault,” Robichaux said. “We’ve got to get tougher as a team.”