Baseball is a funny game. Sunday afternoon, there were extremes at play for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
The UL pitching staff allowed Arkansas State 14 free baserunners, five hit batters and nine walks in Sunday’s 16-11 series-finale loss to Arkansas State that snapped the Cajuns’ eight-game winning streak.
To balance it out, the Cajuns somehow lost with an offense that hit seven home runs, including three-consecutive solo home runs and four overall in the fourth inning alone, and got seventeen hits.
The finale loss where both teams combined for 402 total pitches put a sour note on another series win for the Cajuns.
“Baseball can get very contagious,” UL head coach Matt Deggs said. “Hopefully, you have the mental tenacity and fortitude to overcome that. You pass the baton, and your job is to do your job. It just didn’t work out today.”
It was the first time since April 2001 against South Alabama that UL hit back-to-back-to-back home runs. Additionally, the last time UL (20-12, 7-2) hit seven home runs in a single game was in a 21-2 win over ULM in 2014.
“Good, bad or indifferent, I can tell you that this team is going to entertain you,” Deggs said. “The people will get their money’s worth. I like our fight and scrap. But we gift-wrapped that game today.”
Arkansas State chased UL starter Chipper Menard, a freshman from New Iberia making his first-career start, from the game after just ⅔ innings after a John Hoskyn three-RBI double gave the Red Wolves an early edge.
“I thought we would’ve gotten out to a better start with (Menard),” Deggs said. “But, it didn’t work out and things kind of deteriorated.”
The Cajuns hit the ball well in the early innings, but stranded six runners in the first three innings alone.
That changed in a big way in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Cajuns transformed a baseball game into a home run derby, with C.J. Willis, Conner Kimple, Ben Fitzgerald and Tyler Robertson all hitting solo home runs in the inning to give the Cajuns a 4-3 lead when the smoke cleared. Kimple, Fitzgerald and Robinson were responsible for the consecutive home runs.
Despite the loss, Ben Fitzgerald isn’t too concerned about the hard-luck aspect of losing Sunday’s game.
“You’ve got to take the positives,” he said. “If you score 10 runs and get 17 hits every game you’re doing your job. Obviously, we need to keep improving in all aspects. But you can’t get down after a weekend like this. We probably swung (the bats) the best we have all season this weekend.”
However, the Cajuns pitching struggles bled into the rest of the game, with A-State plating runs in each of the last five innings. The Red Wolves had three runs cross in the fifth, one in the sixth, four in the seventh, one in the eighth and x in the ninth.
A-State’s seventh inning included a three-run, inside-the-park home run by leading hitter Tyler Duncan after Robertson ran into the centerfield wall chasing down a deep fly ball. The Red Wolves added a ninth-inning, three-run home run by Jake Gish.
Deggs emptied the bullpen after Cooke went the distance yesterday, using eight pitchers in the contest.
“We had a full stable down there,” Deggs said. “That afforded us to not have too long a leash with anybody.”
However, The Cajuns’ batting order refused to let the team go quietly despite the pitching struggles of Sunday.
Every Cajun run except the final two plated in the ninth was pushed across by the long ball, with Ben Fitzgerald hitting two home runs -- his fourth-inning solo job and a three-run bomb in the bottom of the sixth -- and Nick Hagedorn and Carson Roccaforte hitting solo homers in the seventh inning.
The Cajuns do not have a mid-week contest this week, with UL traveling to South Alabama for a three-game series this weekend.