LAFAYETTE — Based on the way the first two games of the series went, Louisiana-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux figured his team would need to grab the momentum early to win Sunday’s series finale against Little Rock.
Instead, it was the Trojans who struck first with a four-run fifth inning, and the Cajuns were never able to get momentum on their side in a 7-1 loss at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
“Our whole goal was to try to get the momentum early,” Robichaux said. “I thought whoever got the momentum first today … is probably going to get it. They broke us in that one inning.”
Freshman right-handers Nick Lee (3-1) of the Cajuns and Joe Corbett (3-0) of the Trojans dueled for four scoreless innings before Little Rock (8-11, 2-4 Sun Belt) broke the game open in the fifth.
Lee only allowed one hit in the first four innings and had retired eight straight when he hit Trojans catcher Cameron Knight with an 0-1 pitch to start the fifth. Kyle Kirk followed with a single through the left side, and a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third for designated hitter Riley Pittman, who managed his first hit of the year with a single up the middle that scored a pair.
After a sacrifice bunt moved Pittman into scoring position with two outs, Lee issued a two-out walk to leadoff hitter Hunter Owens to bring Ryan Scott to the plate. Scott leads the nation in hitting, and he torched the Cajuns (12-8, 3-3) for seven RBIs in the second game of the series Saturday. Sunday’s walk to Owens proved costly: Scott ripped a double to left-center to score two more.
“You can’t take that kind of hitter and let him get up to the plate,” Robichaux said. “We threw a missed changeup down on him, and he did a good job of getting it out there. He’s a great hitter. It’s just one of those things; we can’t walk the guy in front of him.”
Those four runs were plenty for the Trojans; the Cajuns couldn’t get anything going against the Little Rock pitching staff. Corbett allowed just three hits while striking out six in 5.1 innings, and a trio of relievers allowed just two hits in the final 3.2 innings.
“One inning can do you in if you don’t score runs,” Robichaux said. “We needed to protect that inning better and pitch that inning better.”
The only run the Cajuns were able to scratch across the plate came when Joe Robbins scored on a wild pitch in the sixth. The top three hitters in the Cajuns lineup went 2-for-11 with five strikeouts.
“We just didn’t get it done today competing at the plate,” Robichaux said.
Little Rock piled on with runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth to win comfortably.
The Cajuns go back on the road Tuesday to play LSU in the Wally Pontiff Classic at Zephyr Field in Metairie. The Tigers won all three games with the Cajuns last season, including a 8-6 win in last year’s Pontiff matchup.
Sophomore right-hander Evan Guillory is slated to get the start for the Cajuns.