TROY, Ala. — Louisiana-Lafayette’s hitters never solved Troy starter Lucas Brown on Saturday, and as a result the teams will play a rubber game Sunday in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ opening Sun Belt Conference series.
Brown allowed one unearned run in a complete-game performance as the host Trojans evened the weekend series with a 4-1 victory over the Cajuns, snapping a seven-game losing streak to UL-Lafayette dating to the 2013 season.
The senior right-hander scattered seven singles and allowed only two Cajuns past second base in the third complete game of his career.
“He’s a good one,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “The big thing we needed to do was hold them down, because we’re not swinging the bat well and you’re facing a guy below two (ERA), and he lived up to his ERA. The one run we did get was given to us.”
The teams play the third game of the series at 1 p.m. Sunday, with freshman Nick Lee (2-0) going for UL-Lafayette against Troy junior left-hander and Loreauville-Catholic New Iberia product Evan Hebert (1-2).
The only run the Cajuns (9-6, 1-1 Sun Belt) managed came in the third inning when Brian Mills reached on a one-out error, stole second and scored on Hunter Kasuls’ bouncing single back through the box. Brown (3-1) stranded seven UL-Lafayette base runners the rest of the way, striking out six and giving up only one walk.
His teammates put up two runs each in the third and fourth innings off Cajuns starter Wyatt Marks (2-1), who allowed eight singles before leaving with two outs in the fourth.
“Wyatt didn’t have his best stuff today,” Robichaux said after the sophomore right-hander walked two and fanned four. “But we victimized him with an error. We gave them that second run, and from there on they bled him ... a 16-hopper through the infield, a flare here and there.”
Senior right-hander Will Bacon relieved Marks and had a stellar outing, striking out a career-high seven and giving up two lightly-hit singles. Bacon coaxed a fly ball from Troy leading hitter T. J. Binder with one pitch in the fourth to get out of the inning, and he gave up only two base runners over the final four and one-third innings in a game that featured 17 singles and no extra-base hits by either team.
“He did a great job of coming in and shutting the faucet off,” Robichaux said. “You want to come get the first out you face, and he did that in a critical situation. He changed the momentum of the game for us on the mound, but we never could turn the momentum back around on their pitcher.”
Troy, which had fallen 4-2 to the Cajuns in Friday night’s series opener, pushed across two runs in the third inning. Austin Hulsey’s one-out ground ball went under shortstop Brad Antchak’s glove to allow Brandon Lockridge and Cameron Sanders to score for a 2-1 lead.
One inning later, Marks recorded two quick outs before Lockridge, Sanders, Trevor Davis and Hulsey had consecutive singles, with Davis’ roller up the middle scoring Lockridge and Sanders for the game’s final runs.
The Cajuns had runners at second and third with one out in the fifth on back-to-back singles by Nick Thurman and Brian Mills, and Stefan Trosclair and Steven Sensley had back-to-back hits with two outs in the eighth before Brown worked out of trouble both times.
“You can’t let a guy go wire to wire like that on us,” Robichaux said. “We’ve got to make better in-game adjustments. We stay on the razor’s edge. If you’re not scoring runs, you have to lock down defensively.”
UL-Lafayette has won opening Sun Belt series in each of the past four seasons, including a sweep of Troy at home to start last year’s league play. The Cajuns hadn’t lost to the Trojans since dropping the third game of a series at home in 2013.
“You don’t want to start 1-2,” Robichaux said. “When you lose the first and win the second, you feel better, like you’ve got some momentum. When you drop the second one, you feel like you’ve lost momentum. We have to learn how to win every series. That’s the goal.”