MIAMI — After the Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team got off to a quick start, FIU pitcher Tyler Alexander recovered. And eventually, he slowed down the Ragin’ Cajuns, paving the way to the Pathers’ 7-6 comeback victory Friday in 11 innings at FIU Baseball Stadium.
Alexander surrendered four runs to ULL (29-14, 10-9 Sun Belt) in the first inning and threw 30-plus pitches. But what he accomplished over the next five innings paid dividends for FIU (23-17, 11-8).
Alexander tossed five consecutive scoreless innings and limited the Cajuns to two hits the remainder of his time on the mound. Meanwhile, his teammates chipped away at the early deficit and grabbed a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning.
ULL scored twice off of Alberto Cardenas to draw a tie in the eighth and ninth and ultimately force extra innings. Dex Kjerstad launched a solo home run on the first pitch of the ninth inning to tie the score at 6.
The Panthers notched the game-winning run in the 11th inning after a Ryan Wilson walk, following an intentional walk, loaded the bases. Josh Anderson shoved a single through the left side of the infield to score Julius Gaines with the tiebreaking run.
ULL and FIU continue the series at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The Cajuns have altered their pitching rotation and will give Cody Boutte the start.
Mitchell Davis, who tossed the final two innings for FIU and struck out four, picked up the win in relief. Wilson, making his first relief appearance in a weekend series since the Southern Miss weekend March 8-10, was charged with the loss.
Neither starting pitcher factored in to the decision. Austin Robichaux worked seven innings and yielded five runs (four earned) while Alexander held the Cajuns to four runs (two earned) off five hits in six innings.
The Cajuns’ Nos. 1-4 hitters finished a combined 2-for-18, and the team committed four errors. The Panthers collected 14 hits and had five hitters with multiple hits.
ULL sent eight batters to the plate in collecting the early 4-0 lead. Kjerstad and Conrad walked to lead off giving UL two runners on base with no outs.
Kjerstad scored on a throwing error by Alexander, then RBI single by Caleb Adams and Blake Trahan created a 3-0 advantage. Michael Strentz executed a squeeze bunt to plate the fourth run, but the Cajuns uprising was ended as the Panthers were able to execute a double play.
It took FIU just three at-bats to cut the deficit in half. A Gaines leadoff infield single was followed by an RBI double from Zach Sweety and RBI single by Aramis Garcia.
Alexander and Robichaux settled in and only a single run was plated between the second and sixth inning.
A leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh led to the equalizing run for FIU and later in the inning Garcia would give FIU its first lead of the game with an RBI single.
The teams swapped runs in the eighth inning as the Panthers carried a 6-5 lead into the final regulation frame. Kjerstad kept the Cajuns hopes alive when he took the first offering from Cardenas over the left field fence.
Davis retired ULL in order in the 10th inning and a caught stealing of Kjerstad in the 11th inning helped the Panthers makeup for a defensive miscue.
Gaines became the first Panthers hitter to reach base via a hit since the seventh inning when he led off the bottom of the 11th with a single through the left side. After a sacrifice moved Gaines to second, the Cajuns intentionally walked Garcia to set up a double play.
The double-play ball never came, as Wilson issued a five-pitch walk and Anderson followed with his winning base hit.