After a rough first inning, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns kept coming and coming and coming.
But the Troy Trojans withstood the rally to grab a critical 6-5 win over the Ragin’ Cajuns on Thursday at Russo Park.
The visiting Trojans touched Cajuns’ ace Spencer Arrighetti for four runs in the top of the first inning to place the mountain before UL.
The Cajuns fell to 28-22 overall and 11-11 in Sun Belt play, while Troy improved to 27-22 and 13-9. Add the fact that UTA and Little Rock both won Thursday and the Cajuns enter Friday’s game two in third place in the Sun Belt West race with two games left in the regular season.
"We weren't able to get rolling there until middle late there and a lot of the damage had been done," UL coach Matt Deggs said. "You want to see us finish one of those games and I think that's the frustrating part."
Drew Frederic led off the first with a double and Logan Cerny was hit by a pitch before Rigbsy Mosley’s sacrifice fly. Caleb Bartolero, who had three hits by the fourth inning, got an RBI single for one run and then a passed ball made it 2-0.
A fielding error got home the final two runs of the inning for the four-run cushion.
"We've got to make a play right there to finish the inning," Deggs said. "We've got to get off to a better start, and when that happens, we've got to be able to cover it up offensively."
The rest of the game was a matter of slowing chipping away at Troy’s early lead.
Of course, the mountain got a little taller in the fourth with two more Trojan runs for a 6-0 lead. Frederic homered and Bartolero added an RBI double.
Arrighetti lasted only four innings, allowing six runs (four earned), five hits, three walks and two strikeouts in throwing 94 pitches.
"We couldn't find our secondary stuff," Deggs said of Arrighetti's outing. "Jump out to an 0-2 count on their leadff guy who is a really good hitter and throw a face-high slider that he caps down the line for a double, and it was kind of downhill from there in that first inning. It's hard when you can't find a second pitch. We were just kind of running from our arm tonight, underneath it, flattening out and everything was landing to his arm side when he tried to go to a secondary pitch."
UL’s comeback attempt started with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Brennan Breaux led off with a double. After it appeared he would be stranded there, Tyler Robertson drew a walk on a close pitch before Carson Roccaforte’s line drive to right was misplayed to make it 6-2. Breaux finished with three more hits on the night.
In the sixth, Robertson walked with one out and scored when Roccaforte’s hard ground ball to second was booted to cut it to 6-3.
Incredibly, Roccaforte was in the middle of it again in the eighth. This time, Roccaforte’s hard-hit ball sailed over the fence in right for a two-run homer.
"Carson, that's three hits," Deggs said. "You can call it one, but the one he hit through the second baseman. The other one was top-spinning to the rightfielder. Both plays obviously need to be made, but it's good to see him find the center of the baseball again and barrel stuff up."
The only reason UL's late offense even gave the Cajuns a chance was the relief pitching of Austin Bradford. The senior right-hander delivered four shutout innings, only allowing two hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
"I like what I've been seeing out of him," Deggs said of Bradford. "He made a little bit of an arm stroke adjustment during the week. He ran his hand out a little more to the side and it was very effective in a simulated game we played earlier in the week and it definitely caught my attention. You're in a spot right there where you want to save bullets, so a guy gets a chance and my goodness, he made the most of that.
"That was very, very impressive. I think that's definitely going to get him a look come tournament time."
Troy closer Marquez Oates came on to get the final two outs in the eighth and added a perfect ninth to nail down his eighth save of the season.
"It's late and at the plate when it does break," Deggs said of Oates. "You can't get jumpy off that guy. You've got to see the ball. You can't swing out of the hand. He's got enough of a fastball to keep you a little bit honest. That's one of those guys you've got to rev the motor down, get him up and get inside of him and use the middle of the field."
Despite the comeback, Troy starter Garrett Gainous got the win to improve to 9-4 after giving up three runs (all unearned), four hits, three walks and five strikeouts.