LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Austin Robichaux limited Arkansas-Little Rock to two hits and struck out a career-high 14 in a complete-game effort that guided Louisiana-Lafayette to a 9-2 victory Friday night at Gary Hogan Field.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (23-10, 7-6 Sun Belt Conference) touched UALR ace Chance Cleveland for six runs and nine hits in 4.2 innings — the most runs and hits Cleveland has allowed all season.
Robichaux began a string of 16 consecutive batters retired after the Trojans (15-17, 4-9) scored an unearned run in the second inning to cut the Cajuns lead to 2-1.
The Cajuns put UALR away — and ended Cleveland’s night — in the fifth inning when a string of four straight at-bats produced four runs for a 6-1 advantage.
ULL moved within a game of first place in the Sun Belt standings behind FAU, South Alabama, Troy and WKU all tied for first with an 8-5 league mark.
The Cajuns and UALR continue their series at 4 p.m. Saturday.
ULL will send Ryan Wilson (3-1, 3.14) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by UALR’s Blake Huffman.
All nine of the Cajuns’ runs were produced by the bottom of the lineup, and hitters No. 5-9 accounted for the production. Michael Strentz, the No. 5 hitter, led the charge with three RBIs on a pair of doubles.
Robichaux did not give up an earned run to the Trojans, and his 14 strikeouts were the most recorded by a Sun Belt pitcher in 2013.
Three consecutive two-out singles led to the Cajuns breaking a scoreless tie in the second inning.
Blake Trahan picked up the first hit, moving Tyler Girouard (leaoff walk) to third base. Chase Compton and Jace Conrad followed with run scoring singles for a 2-0 edge.
The Trojans got a run back in the bottom of the second, scoring an unearned tally when a Dex Kjerstad throw back to the infield following a Sam Vogel single bounced over Trahan’s reach at shortstop.
Cleveland held the Cajuns off the scoreboard the next two innings, but ULL’s ability to get base runners drove the UALR ace’s pitch count up to 78 after four innings.
Robichcaux struck out five of the next six Trojans hitters to maintain his lead before the offense provided him with beneficial support in the fifth inning.
Singles by Ryan Leonards and Seth Harrison gave ULL two runners early in the top of the fifth. Two batters later, Strentz doubled to begin the string of four straight at-bats in which the Cajuns scored, upping the lead to 6-1 and chasing Cleveland off the mound.
Robichaux was provided a 9-1 cushion in his team’s next at-bat with two runs scoring on a Strentz double and another on Dylan Butler’s second sacrifice fly of the game.
His string of consecutive Trojans retired grew to 16 straight before Sage Gasaway drew a leadoff walk in the eighth inning. UALR picked up one run that inning, but it was unearned as Gasaway scored from third base on a passed ball.