LAFAYETTE — Chase Traffica pitched seven strong innings, Matt Hicks worked his way out of a ninth-inning jam and Louisiana-Lafayette scored just enough in the late innings to take a 4-2 win over Sacred Heart on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (9-2) scored single runs in the seventh and eighth innings off Sacred Heart reliever Robbie Maguire to break a 2-2 tie, then had to hold off the Pioneers (0-1) in the top of the ninth.
Sacred Heart loaded the bases in that final inning with none out when Billy McDonough reached on an error, John Murphy doubled in the gap in left field and Dan Perez drew a walk. But Hicks fanned Derick Horn; pinch runner Jayson Sullivan was thrown out at the plate on Matt Charmello’s ground ball; and Dave Boisture grounded out to end the game and give Hicks his fourth save.
“We made a critical error there, and we were still able to overcome it,”’ Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said of the ninth inning. “Bases loaded and no outs; it doesn’t get any more critical than that, and we got out of it. That’s the sign of a good team.”
Traffica (1-0) checked Sacred Heart on only two hits in seven innings while striking out eight, the most by any ULL pitcher this season.
He retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced — McDonough drew a one-out walk in the first inning — and didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning.
“He’s starting to get his velocity back,” Robichaux said of Traffica, who missed the entire 2012 season after Tommy John surgery on his right arm. “And now he can mix that in with his other pitches.”
The first hit Traffica allowed was a big one, though, when Charmello laced a 2-1 pitch over the left-field wall after Horn drew a leadoff walk to open the fifth. The first of the Pioneers’ three hits tied the score at 2.
ULL, which hosts the Pioneers in the second game of the series at 2 p.m. Saturday, pushed across one run in the third inning on Jace Conrad’s leadoff double and a sacrifice fly by Dex Kjerstad.
The Cajuns then made it 2-0 off Sacred Heart starter Troy Scribner on back-to-back doubles by Chase Compton and Dylan Butler in the fourth. before Charmello’s blast tied the game one inning later.
The Cajuns took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh when Butler doubled with one out and scored on Blake Trahan’s two-out single. ULL got an insurance run in the eighth when Seth Harrison led off with a bunt single and eventually scored on a two-out infield error.
Scribner fanned seven and scattered five hits in his first start, coming in the Pioneers’ season opener.
“We talked about how teams’ Friday night starters are going to be solid,” Robichaux said. “That means you have to play real baseball ... you have to do the little things, get bunts down and move runners and play good defense because one critical mistake can beat you.”