HOUSTON — With his team down a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, Louisiana-Lafayette’s All-American, Blake Trahan, stepped to the plate with Dylan Butler representing the tying run at first base.
Naturally, with what most consider his best hitter at bat, coach Tony Robichaux signaled for a sacrifice bunt.
“We had an All-American at the plate, but we were going to (sacrifice bunt),” he said. “Because if you can tie it, you’re still playing.”
It was a bold move, but it paid off — perhaps in ways Robichaux couldn’t have anticipated.
The next batter, Joe Robbins, hit a chopper to shortstop Connor Wong. Butler made a break for third base — a move Robichaux said later could’ve resulted in Butler being thrown out.
But Butler hesitated as he ran, screening the ball and then forcing Wong to decide whether to throw to third or first. Wong pumped a throw to third, then decided to rush a throw to first. The throw was low, and everybody was safe.
Robichaux’s next decision was easier. With the left-handed Kyle Clement at the plate against a left-handed pitcher and the tying run 90 feet away, he didn’t hesitate to call another sacrifice bunt despite the fact that Clement has been arguably the Cajuns’ hottest hitter.
“If you execute, it’s hard to defend,” Robichaux said.
Clement didn’t lay down a perfect bunt. Pitcher Aaron Fletcher had a chance to get the ball to the plate in time with a glove flip, but Butler instinctively slid to his right to swipe at the plate with his hands, and the catcher dropped the ball.
The Cajuns have made a name for themselves with the long ball in the past few seasons, but as they showed both throughout the year and Sunday, they can get the job done with small ball, too.
Not only did the Cajuns clinch a spot in the regional championship round Monday, but they also made their odds of winning the tournament much better.
If they lost, they would’ve had to win three consecutive games to advance to the super regionals instead of the one they’ll have to win Monday. They also have the upper hand when it comes to pitching.
The Cajuns have used only five pitchers in two games, while the other teams have had to exhaust their staff in the loser’s bracket.
“We have (Monday’s starter) Evan Guillory really fresh right now, so we just have to stay doing what we do,” Robichaux said.
Ultimate bat flip
After he was hit by a pitch to bring home the winning run, Tyler Girouard flung his bat in celebratory fashion — and watched in horror as it tumbled on a roughly 90-foot, end-over-end path toward his teammates.
“Once I threw it, I … saw it and I kind of freaked out a little bit,” he said. “I don’t really know what to say about that. Next time I’ll have a better reaction.”