LAFAYETTE — The second Northwestern State batter Evan Guillory faced Tuesday night smacked the first pitch he saw into left field for a single.
The next 26 batters he faced? Bupkis.
Guillory (2-3) threw the Cajuns (19-10) first one-hit shutout in nearly six years in a 4-0 win against Northwestern State (16-13).
“I don’t get too many chances to shake (catcher Nick) Thurman’s hand at the end of the game, so I’m going to take the opportunity when I got it,” Guillory said.
It was truly a masterful performance by the sophomore right-hander. He needed only 93 pitches to complete the game, striking out seven against just one walk.
“He had all of his stuff working,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “He pitched off his fastball. He had location in and out and up and down and back and forth.”
He was so efficient, living low in the zone and on the corners, that he said he didn’t even feel loose until midway through the game. Guillory had thrown only 32 pitches by the time he came out to start the fifth inning.
“I’ve been at this for a long time, 30 years, and I’ve seen it maybe one or two times throughout the 30,” Robichaux said about Guillory’s efficiency. “That very rarely happens. You’ve got to get a lot of early outs, and that’s what he got tonight.”
By early outs, Robichaux meant early in the count. But Guillory stacked those early in the count outs early in the game, largely by getting the Demons to make poor contact on pitches down in the zone, leading to a load of ground ball outs.
That one-out single in the first inning was erased two pitches later when Guillory got Daniel Garner to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. On that play, shortstop Brad Antchak flipped to second baseman Brenn Conrad, who made a bare-handed grab before gunning to first base to end the inning.
“Brad and Brenn made some spectacular plays in the first inning, and it makes me feel more comfortable throughout the game to throw my pitches with confidence,” Guillory said shortly before his post-game interview was interrupted by a celebratory shaving cream pie from his teammates.
Of the first 18 outs Guillory recorded, 12 came on the ground, including eight of his first 10.
In the meantime, his offense worked hard to get him a lead against Northwestern State pitcher Jeffrey Stovall (3-3). The Demons right-hander was tying the Cajuns lineup in knots by aggressively attacking the zone, particularly the right-handed hitters.
The Cajuns started six right-handed hitters Tuesday, and those hitters combined to go 1-for-12 against Stovall.
But the Cajuns also started three left-handers, and those three went 5-for-9 with three RBIs against Stovall.
Conrad reached on an infield single with one out in the second, and when Nick Thurman followed him up with a double down the right field line, Conrad raced all the way around to score from first.
“I was trying to go first to third as fast as I could, then I saw coach (Anthony Babineaux) waving me home so I kept going,” Conrad said. “They always teach us to hustle as fast as we can and good things will happen.”
In the sixth, Steven Sensley followed a Northwestern State error by ripping a single through the left side of the infield, and after a ground ball advanced both runners, Conrad came through again.
His third hit of the night found the turf in right field, scoring Sensley and Stefan Trosclair to make it a 3-0 game. Entering Tuesday night’s game, Conrad had three hits in his past eight games combined.
Those three runs were more than enough for Guillory, who gained steam as the game went on. His only blip after the one-out single in the first inning was a five-pitch walk to open the fifth.
Guillory retired the last 15 batters he faced, six of them by strikeout. Five of the last eight batters he faced went down on strikes. And he was doing it so efficiently that Robichaux, who had planned to throw a couple of pitchers Tuesday night, did not bring anybody else in.
Zach Osborne was the last Cajuns pitcher to throw a one-hit shut out, doing it against Troy on April 9, 2010.
“We wanted to throw a couple of other arms … but I didn’t want to punish him,” Robichaux said. “The guy was sitting at 50 pitches in the sixth inning. You’ve got to build some kind of stamina with him to be that fourth starter. We just let him keep rolling out.
“I told him in the ninth, ‘It’s yours if you want it. First guy gets on, you might see me. He didn’t allow anybody to get on. He finished it.’”