LAFAYETTE — Nicholls State starting pitcher Mike Hanchar kept Louisiana-Lafayette in check through five innings Tuesday, but the Colonels bullpen couldn’t keep things going.
As a result, the fifth-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns put up two big late innings and rallied for a 5-1 victory in the opener of a two-day home-and-home series between the teams.
The Cajuns (18-2) pushed across three runs in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh off NSU relievers Ryan Deemes and John Satriano, while UL-Lafayette starter Ryan Wilson (2-0) and reliever Matt Plitt combined to check the Colonels (10-11) on four hits while fanning nine.
“We learned how to win in different ways early in the season,” said UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux, “so now when we get in this kind of situation we don’t get spooked.”
That would have been easy to do, as Hanchar held the Cajuns to no runs and three hits in his five innings of work. Meanwhile, Nicholls pushed across a run in the third inning on David Zorn’s one-out bunt single, a stolen base and a two-out RBI single by Philip Lyons.
Nicholls could have made it a two-run game in the sixth, but UL-Lafayette shortstop Blake Trahan speared Keith Cormier’s hard-hit ground ball with the infield drawn in and threw out Tyler Duplantis at the plate.
“We would have liked to get it to 2-0 there,” Colonels coach Seth Thibodeaux said. “That would have been big for momentum. We were trying to be aggressive early, but collectively we didn’t have a lot of good swings, and that caught up with us at the end.”
The Cajuns caught up with Deemes (1-2) in the sixth when Seth Harrison and Caleb Adams had back-to-back singles and Tyler Girouard was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Pinch hitter Chase Compton then lined an 0-2 pitch back through the box to score Harrison and Adams and give UL-Lafayette the lead for good, and Michael Strentz’s sacrifice fly brought home Girouard to make it 3-1.
“Compton did what a senior does,” Robichaux said. “He got a big hit at the right time.”
One inning later, Dylan Butler led off with a double off Satriano, Trahan walked and Ryan Leonards’ following bunt was thrown into right field as Butler scored. A squeeze bunt by Adams two batters later scored Trahan with the final run.
“We got the three-run inning,” Robichaux said, “and then we were able to tack on. When you tack on runs late like that, it’s almost like getting another three-run inning. It put a lot more pressure on their hitters.”
Other than the third inning when the Colonels scored their lone run, the only hit allowed by Wilson in his six innings was a bunt single by Darius Knight in the fifth. Wilson also fanned six, and Plitt faced the minimum number over the final three innings — including three strikeouts and a double play after a two-out Lyons single in the eighth.
“We knew runs would be at a premium,” Robichaux said. “Their guy had a really good ERA (Hanchar came in at 1.29), and it seems like when you get as many runs as we did last game, usually the next game it’s tough to get runs.”
The Cajuns, who won 21-2 at UL-Monroe on Sunday and scored 39 runs in the three-game weekend series, travel to Thibodaux to face the Colonels at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the second part of the home-and-home series.