LAFAYETTE — Midway through Sunday’s series finale, Sam Houston State looked like it was going to push the Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team.
Then the Ragin’ Cajuns unleashed a five-run barrage in the fifth inning and kept piling on after that, surging to a 13-3 win to complete a season-opening, three-game sweep of the Bearkats.
“That’s been our mantra,” said senior outfielder Kyle Clement, who tied a school record with a career-high five hits. “Coach (Tony Robichaux) talks about that day in, day out: ‘Have the ability to finish a team. Once you get up on somebody, just keep pounding and don’t stop.’ That’s what we did today.”
It was Clement who started the fifth-inning surge with an infield single, beginning a string of six consecutive Cajuns to reach base, though only one of those six reached on a ball that left the infield.
By the time the inning was over, the Cajuns had sent 11 batters to the plate, and Clement’s second single of the inning drove home Brian Mills to make it 9-3. Clement finished the series with a team-best eight hits and four RBIs.
From there, the Cajuns tacked on a run in the sixth and three more runs in the seventh to provide the final score.
“What I was real proud of was we came out the same club all three games,” Robichaux said. “We pitched, we played defense and then from there we got timely hitting. The hitters loosened up as the game wore on, and we got a little more physical. We did a good job of staying in the moment and starting to get some three-run innings.”
Highly regarded freshman right-hander Nick Lee started his first game for the Cajuns and turned in four solid innings before he was lifted for righty Eric Carter (1-0) when he reached his pitch limit.
Lee, who said the largest crowd he had pitched in front of before Sunday was about 200 people, said he was a little unnerved by throwing in front of the 4,400 fans who showed up at Moore Field, but he settled in once he had the first inning under his belt.
It helped that the Cajuns jumped to a 3-0 lead after the first. Joe Robbins led the game off with a triple in the left-field corner, and three of the next four hitters followed with run-scoring knocks.
Lee allowed two runs but also stranded a pair of runners in scoring position. Robichaux was happy to see that his young pitcher didn’t get overwhelmed by the moment.
“He pitched out of some tough innings for us,” he said. “I thought he did a great job. I think he’ll get better every time he comes out.”
The Bearkats struck for a run off Carter in the fifth when leadoff hitter Taylor Beene stroked a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a single by Bryce Johnson.
But Carter settled down after that, retiring eight of the final nine batters he faced to earn the win. His fastball regularly checked in at 94 mph on the stadium radar gun.
“He’s pitching off his fastball now, and that was the whole key to him,” Robichaux said. “Last year he kind of came in as a changeup/curveball artist.”
Sam Houston only managed one base runner in the final four innings.
The Cajuns hit the road for their next four games, starting Wednesday at Louisiana Tech.