SAN MARCOS, Texas — The full swings were not doing the trick, so the Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team opted for a more precise approach.
Trailing 2-0 and completely stymied for seven innings by Texas State left-hander Cory Geisler on Friday afternoon, the Ragin’ Cajuns scored all three of their eighth-inning runs via the bunt to surge to a come-from-behind, 4-2 victory in the Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament, their eighth straight win overall.
“Sometimes you’re going to face guys that it’s either their day or they’ve got your number, and (Geisler) had our number,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “So we wanted to take it into our hands and get some bunts down.”
The Cajuns next face Arkansas State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Robichaux said sophomore right-hander Evan Guillory will get the start.
The Cajuns (39-19) had just three hits as a team entering the eighth inning, but back-to-back singles from Hunter Kasuls and Brian Mills put them in business. That’s when they decided to shorten the field to great effect against Texas State (31-27).
Joe Robbins laid a bunt down the third-base line that Geisler had to rush to field. His throw to first base sailed high, allowing the first Cajuns run to cross the plate.
Geisler struck out Kyle Clement to bring Stefan Trosclair to the plate with one out and runners at second and third. The Bobcats were not expecting what came next from the Cajuns’ cleanup man, and frankly, neither was Trosclair.
“I was just looking for a ball to drive in the right-center gap,” Trosclair said. “Then he gave me a sign and I locked in and got the bunt down.”
With Mills in motion from third on the pitch, Trosclair laid down a suicide-squeeze bunt past the unsuspecting Geisler. The tying run came home easily, and Trosclair safely reached first without a throw.
“I’m sure them looking at the situation were thinking he’s probably going to hit because of who he is, but when all your hitters can bunt, that’s what it does to people,” Robichaux said. “Now it gives you another weapon, and we need that. When your big hitters can bunt, it creates an enormous weapon for you. … Nobody’s too good to not be able to bunt.”
Having already tied the score, the Cajuns went right back to the well. Even though Texas State was ready for the squeeze bunt this time, it didn’t matter: Robbins came home to score on a deftly placed bunt by Brenn Conrad, giving the Cajuns their first lead.
The Cajuns didn’t mind dealing death by 1,000 cuts.
“We’re grinders. We find a way to get it done,” Trosclair said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s with a bunt or a big hit … you’ve got to be able to win in a lot of different ways.”
The Cajuns tacked on an insurance run in the ninth inning when Nick Thurman scored on a wild pitch.
Cajuns freshman right-hander Nick Lee was superb in seven innings, and sophomore Dylan Moore hung two zeroes on the scoreboard to record his 12th save. The way Geisler was pitching, Lee needed to be good.
Geisler and the Cajuns have history. The southpaw carved them up earlier this season in Lafayette, allowing just four hits and one unearned run in a complete game win. For most of Friday’s game, he was better.
The Cajuns didn’t get off to a bad start, loading the bases against Geisler in the first inning on a hit by pitch, a bunt single and a two-out walk. But the Texas State southpaw was in cruise control after that. He got Kennon Fontenot to ground out to shortstop to leave the bases loaded in the first, and that started a string of 16 straight Cajuns batters he retired.
The Cajuns didn’t show life offensively until the seventh inning, when Trosclair led off with an infield single, then was followed with a one-out single from Fontenot. But then an unexpected home-field advantage played its part in keeping the Cajuns off the scoreboard.
Alex Pinero crushed a Geisler offering that looked like a sure three-run homer. But the wind, which had been blowing out to left field for the whole tournament, had shifted and was blowing in. Pinero’s potential bomb was hauled in without incident in the left-field corner.
As deflating as that was, the Cajuns appeared to have found the crack in Geisler’s armor. Kasuls led off the eighth with a single, and he was followed by a flare single to right by Mills, setting up the Cajuns buntathon.
“We haven’t been real good throughout the season at bunting, so I think today was real important,” Robichaux said.