LAFAYETTE — The UL-Lafayette baseball team won its third game in a row using what’s proven to be a simple and successful formula: timely hitting plus excellent pitching.
En route to defeating Northwestern State 8-2 on Wednesday, the Cajuns broke the game wide open with a five-run fifth inning, and each of those runs crossed the plate with two outs. The inning could’ve been even worse for the Demons.
“We’re doing a really good job right now of coming up with that big hit,” said junior catcher Nick Thurman, who picked up three more hits Wednesday to raise his average to .457 on the year. “We’re instilling it into our heads that we’re going to get the big hit. There’s no more, ‘I hope I’m going to get a hit right here.’
“It’s walking into the box thinking, ‘I know it’s my turn, I’m getting a big hit right here.’ ”
Already leading 2-1, the Cajuns (7-5) picked up a pair of singles and a hit batter to load the bases with nobody out to start the inning. But reliever Brandon Stane got first baseman Greg Davis to sharply ground out to third base, starting a 5-2-3 double play.
But the Cajuns wouldn’t let the double play dampen a big inning. Tyler Girouard drew a two-out walk to load the bases back up for Nick Thurman, who stayed hot by lining an opposite-field single into left-field to score the first run.
It was Thurman’s third hit of the game and ninth hit in 14 at bats.
“I’m really comfortable,” Thurman said. “I’m able to get good pitches, and I’m able to not miss them when I get them. As long as I can keep putting consistent swings down, hopefully I can stay on this streak.”
The bases were still full for Joe Robbins, who hit a hot shot down the line that Demons third baseman Matthew Alford could not handle, scoring two more Cajuns.
Dylan Butler, who has been struggling mightily at the plate this season, put the finishing blow on Northwestern State (6-7) by booming a two-run double off the wall in left-center field.
Butler entered the game hitting .111 on the year, but looked good at the plate Tuesday and finished the night with three runs driven in.
“Somebody will step up,” coach Tony Robichaux said about his corner outfielders. “I was glad Butler got going again. Sometimes in hitting, one hit can get you going.”
Davis extended his hitting streak to six games with an RBI single in the sixth inning to push the Cajuns lead to 8-1.
The seven-run cushion was more than enough for the Cajuns bullpen. Five pitchers combined to throw five scoreless innings before the Demons tagged sophomore Reagan Bazar for a run in the ninth. Bazar went on to preserve the win by striking out the side.
“You want people to come in, do their jobs, be clean, be quick and get out,” Robichaux said. “Those pitchers really did a good job tonight.”
Sophomore left-hander Connor Toups (1-0) fared well in his first work of the season, needing just 37 pitches to navigate through three one-run innings.
“I was just waiting my turn and working while I wait,” Toups said. “Once I got in there, I had to … show them that I can really pitch and be a huge asset to the team.”
The only offense the Demons were able to muster against Toups came when Chase Daughdrill led off the second with a triple that can be credited to a poor defensive play in right field by Butler.
Butler attempted to dive for Daughdrill’s blooper into shallow right field, and the ball skipped under him, clearing the way for a triple. The next batter, catcher CJ Webster, blooped a single into shallow right-center to give the Demons a 1-0 lead.
The Cajuns have now swept the season series against the Demons and open conference play at home this weekend against Troy, with first pitch coming at 6 p.m. Friday.