LAFAYETTE — With another excellent pitching performance backing them up, the Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team’s bats made sure there would be no drama in its 6-2, series-clinching win against Sam Houston State on Saturday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
A day after managing just four hits in a 2-1, 10-inning win in their season opener, the Ragin’ Cajuns (2-0) pounded out 12 hits, with four of them going for extra bases.
“I just think the first night we came out and probably pressed a little bit,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “(Assistant coaches Jeremy Talbot and Anthony Babineaux) did a great job today of slowing them down a little bit in (batting practice), got them ready to go and it paid off.”
Sophomore Wyatt Marks (1-0) logged 6.1 fine innings, and the bats announced their presence immediately.
Joe Robbins belted a 2-2 pitch over the left-field wall to lead off the bottom of the first inning against Sam Houston’s Hayden Nixon (0-1). It was the first of two home runs by Cajuns hitters, and a four-run seventh inning provided a comfortable cushion for freshman left-hander Hogan Harris to pick up his first career save after 2.2 innings of relief.
Marks was filthy, using a three-pitch mix to stymie the Bearkats. He struck out eight — including a sequence where he struck out four straight — and the only run charged to him came after Harris gave up an RBI triple to the second batter he faced.
He regularly popped the mitt with a low-90s fastball, and his slider was working well.
“He went after them and went after them hard,” Robichaux said. “He really did a great job of ... being able to work the inside half. Then once they got looking in, he finished them with the slider, and he had a real good slider working today.”
But it was an improved piece of Marks’ arsenal that helped keep the Bearkats hitters off-balance.
Marks didn’t often use a changeup during his freshman year, but he worked hard to refine it over the offseason, and the results showed in his 2016 debut.
“Last year, they’d call it, and I said, ‘Oh boy, here we go,’ ” Marks said. “Now it’s just like any other pitch. It’s another variable. (Robichaux) always talks about keeping them off guard. If they’re expecting fastball/slider and you throw a changeup in there, they’re thinking, ‘Oh God, what was that?’ ”
Marks also was the beneficiary of some fine defense by Robbins at third base. Robbins made his second charging bare-handed play on a bunt in as many days in the second inning, then added a diving gem in the fourth.
“I tell all the pitchers to not worry about third base; I’ll take care of it,” Robbins said. “I feel confident over there; I’ve got a good arm, a good glove. ... Third base is the position I feel the best at. I don’t have any worries over there defensively.”
Sam Houston only got three balls out of the infield against Marks in 6.1 innings — the last of which being a one-out single in the seventh that chased Marks from the game.
He left with a 2-0 lead thanks to Steven Sensley’s fourth-inning home run — the first of his Cajuns career — but the Bearkats would cut into that lead on Spence Rahm’s RBI triple off Harris in the seventh.
The Cajuns had the answer right away, though.
Nick Thurman led off the inning with a double, then the Cajuns loaded the bases on back-to-back bunts — one helped by a bobble that was ruled an error, one ruled a bunt single.
The next two pitches brought two runners home as Brenn Conrad was hit by a pitch and the next offering eluded catcher Robie Rojas for a passed ball. After a walk by Stefan Trosclair loaded the bases again, Kyle Clement poked an opposite-field single into left field that scored two more.
That was more than enough room for Harris, who allowed one run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly before closing the door on the save.
“He pitched calm in a big setting,” Robichaux said. “That’s a good sign.”
The Cajuns will send freshman right-hander Nick Lee to the mound to try to complete the sweep at 1 p.m. Sunday.