LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette’s baseball team needed a big effort to avoid a Sun Belt Conference sweep here Sunday afternoon, and the Ragin’ Cajuns got that effort from an unexpected source.
Senior pitcher Ben Frith, who had pitched only six innings in his ULL career, checked a big-hitting South Alabama squad on four hits and a lone run through 6.1 innings, leading the Cajuns to a 17-7 win in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader.
The Jaguars (39-14, 19-8) won Sunday’s opening game 9-5 and lead the Sun Belt standings by one game over Troy heading into next weekend’s final regular-season series, when the teams face each other.
The Cajuns (35-17, 16-11) are tied for third place and will play their final series at UL-Monroe, the only team eliminated from contention for the tournament so far. ULL will host the Sun Belt Tournament the following Wednesday-Sunday at M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Frith (1-0) came on in relief of starter Ben Carter in the first inning of the nightcap after South Alabama scored six runs on six hits, including three homers, through its first eight batters. The senior from Lafayette forced a ground ball to get out of that inning, then recorded seven straight outs before giving up a run in the fourth on Jeff DeBlieux’s RBI triple.
Frith didn’t walk a batter and allowed only two to reach third base in the longest outing of his career.
ULL scored 16 runs over the first five innings and locked up the run-rule win on Caleb Adams’ second homer of the game, a solo shot in the seventh inning.
“Give all the credit to Ben for taking the pressure off our hitters,” Cajun coach Tony Robichaux said. “We had someone that got us off the field with two outs, and we hadn’t had that in the first two games.”
The Cajuns had 14 hits off five Jaguar pitchers in the first five innings, with Adams’ first homer a three-run shot in the fifth that made it 14-7. Dylan Butler followed two batters later with a two-run homer, part of nine extra-base hits for ULL in the nightcap.
“Today was a physical statement,” Robichaux said of the second game. “We scored inning after inning and kept scoring. ... We didn’t do that Saturday or in the first game.”
The Jaguars scored in each of the first five innings in the opener off Cajun starter Cody Boutte (8-3). Cord Cockrell and had two or more hits in each of those innings as part of an 18-hit attack.
Nick Zaharion, Dustin Dalken and Graham Odom each had three hits in support of starter Matt Bell (6-0), who scattered seven hits through seven innings and struck out five. Butler and Michael Strentz had solo homers in the fifth and sixth innings to cut into an 8-1 deficit, but the Cajuns could not close the gap.
Jeff DeBlieux, who also homered in the opener, led off Sunday’s second game with a solo shot, and Dustin Dalken’s three-run homer and Brent Mitchell’s solo homer made it 6-0 before Frith came on.
The Cajuns got three back in the first on three hits, including Seth Harrison’s RBI double, and took the lead for good with a five-run second inning paced by Harrison’s two-run triple off reliever and losing pitcher Tripp Cecil (3-2).
ULL added two more in the third and one in the fourth before Adams’ and Butler’s homers in the fifth.
ULL dropped a 9-6 decision in Saturday’s series opener after leading 6-0 early in that game.
“We didn’t pitch enough in games one and two. But give them (the Jaguars) credit, they swing it well,” Robichaux said. “They just couldn’t find an adjustment for Frith. He’s been working hard every day, and his teammates rewarded him today. Baseball paid him back.”