In many ways, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns’ 2019 baseball season has been teetering on the edge for months now.
For a while it appeared a gut-wrenching 9-8 loss at UTA on April 18 after leading 8-4 through seven with a chance to get above .500 for the first time all season did the trick.
It’s been a season of heartbreaking losses for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
It began a five-game losing streak that created another huge uphill climb that ended Thursday morning in Conway, S.C., when No. 6 Troy wrapped up the Cajuns’ season with a 10-7 victory in a Sun Belt Conference tournament elimination game at Springs Brooks Stadium.
"They could have tanked it in a long time ago because it’s not our standard," UL coach Tony Robichaux said. "They could have started feeling sorry for ourselves and I appreciate the seniors keeping us together."
Indeed, Wednesday’s 13-inning loss to No. 2 Georgia Southern proved to be the final straw in the Cajuns’ roller coaster campaign that ended 28-31.
Troy (30-28) advances to meet the Little Rock-Georgia Southern loser in another elimination game at 2 p.m. Friday.
Ironically, the biggest question for the Cajuns coming into the Sun Belt tournament was the limited options for their starting pitchers.
In Wednesday’s marathon, the Cajuns got a season-high 7⅔ innings from Grant Cox, who allowed just two runs, only for the bullpen to waste that opportunity by squandering two separate leads in extra innings.
On Thursday, redshirt freshman Logan Savoy began the sixth with a 3-2 lead. But after giving up a two-run homer to Dalton Singuefield, Savoy was replaced by freshman Blake Schultz and things got really ugly.
"I thought Savoy gave us a chance to win," Robichaux said. "We knew after we got out of that first play-in game that we’d face people's No. 1s and 2s, and we knew the scores would come down. (Savoy) got us off to a good start, up close to 90 pitches, (Sinquefield) was going to be his last hitter anyway and he got it up and out of the ball park. They forced our hand at that time and we gave up six runs out of the bullpen, that’s hard to recover from. That’s been our biggest challenge all year especially in the second half, to be good from the seventh inning on when Gunner’s not available."
It was certainly a curious move.
Schultz would last a third of an inning before he was replaced by Gunner Leger for two-thirds of an inning to no avail.
Rigsby Mosley collected an RBI double and Drew Frederic, who doubled twice off Savoy, added a sacrifice fly for a 7-3 lead after six.
Connor Cooke tried to keep UL afloat, but instead yielded three home runs in four batters to see Troy build a commanding 10-3 lead and give way to Chance Stone.
"We went to (Leger) because we thought the game was on the line, but the momentum flipped when they hit the two-run jack," Robichaux said. "It’s been a big issue to stop momentum. We call it relevant work, we want our pen to come in and do their job so that when you make a push, your hitters’ work is relevant. Our hitters did make a push but our bullpen made it irrelevant."
Savoy allowed four runs on seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts in five innings.
The Cajuns led 3-0 early on with a three-run third inning.
A lot has changed for both the UL Ragin’ Cajuns and the Appalachian State Mountaineers since the two teams met in late March.
Jordan Wiley was hit by a pitch ahead of a Hayden Cantrelle double and an RBI single by Hunter Kasuls.
Todd Lott followed with a sacrifice fly and Handsome Monica with an RBI single.
Lott added a two-run home run and O'Neal Lochridge contributed an RBI double in the ninth, but it wasn't enough.
Troy starter Levi Thomas controlled the game, allowing three runs on four hits, one walk and striking out seven runs in seven innings.
"I just kept pounding the zone and doing the best job I could and give the offense a chance to get going," Thomas said. "I knew if I did my job the offense would do theirs. When they do that it takes a lot of pressure off everyone."