LAFAYETTE — The combination of Carson Baranik and Matt Plitt was too much for UL-Monroe’s baseball team Friday night, and that means the Warhawks have their backs to the wall.
Baranik and Plitt combined for a six-hitter and struck out eight as Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to a 9-1 victory over ULM in the middle game of their Sun Belt Conference series, giving the Ragin’ Cajuns their 15th straight series victory and their 10th win in their last 11 games.
The Cajuns (48-7, 25-4 Sun Belt) locked up the league title and the top seed in next week’s Sun Belt tournament last weekend. The Warhawks, meanwhile, fell to 11-18 in league play and need either a win in Saturday’s 3 p.m. regular-season finale or a loss by either UALR or South Alabama to secure a spot in the eight-team tournament.
UALR hosts Arkansas State and USA is at Troy in their regular-season finales. ULM, UALR or USA will be eliminated on Saturday’s final day of the regular season. Georgia State was the other team eliminated Friday with a 2-1 loss at Western Kentucky.
ULM (22-33) scored first for the second straight night, but UL-Lafayette scored nine unanswered runs including a pair of solo homers by Greg Davis and Michael Strentz in the second and third innings that gave the Cajuns a 2-1 lead.
That would have been enough for Baranik and Plitt. Baranik (10-1) gave up a two-out RBI triple to Jacob Stockton that scored Trent Lucas in the second, and then stranded two runners in the third on the way to retiring the final six batters he faced.
Plitt, getting a five-inning save for his third of the year, allowed only four baserunners and fanned five while walking only one, including striking out all three Warhawk hitters in the sixth inning on called third strikes.
“I’ve been struggling as of late,” said Plitt, who retired the first six and the last four batters he faced. “All I wanted to do was get back on rhythm and in tempo, and Carson set a tempo right off the bat for us. I’d been struggling with walks, so this felt good.”
Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux had planned to limit Baranik’s pitch count in preparations for next week’s tournament. Baranik, who became UL-Lafayette’s first 10-game winner since Hunter Moody in 2006, only threw 45 pitches over the first four innings.
“We wanted to get him out of there and rested,” Robichaux said. “It’ll be the same with (Cody) Boutte tomorrow, trying to have everybody ready. Everything’s setting up for us nicely ... I like where we’re at right now.”
Boutte (7-0) will get the start for the Cajuns in Saturday’s contest against fellow senior left-hander Chad Miller (2-2) for the Warhawks, as the Cajuns go for their second sweep of ULM this season and their sixth conference sweep of the season. The last time UL-Lafayette lost a series was late in the 2013 season.
“To stay that consistent, and to do a lot of that on the road, you have to be able to win in a lot of ways,” Robichaux said. “That’s what you have to do to play at the high level we’re playing at.”
Strentz’s leadoff homer in the third gave the Cajuns the lead for good, and Jace Conrad added an RBI double later in that inning off ULM starter Chris Hunt (2-5).
Seth Harrison and Tyler Girouard had back-to-back RBI doubles in the fifth for a 5-1 lead, and Ryan Leonards’ two-run single highlighted a three-run sixth inning off reliever Anthony Herrera.