LAFAYETTE — Freshman Nick Lee stifled Georgia State for 6.2 innings, and the bottom of the Louisiana-Lafayette order backed him up at the plate as the Ragin’ Cajuns earned their first Sun Belt Conference series sweep of the season with a 4-1 win Saturday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Lee (4-1) turned in arguably the best outing of his young career, allowing five hits and not issuing a walk to give the Cajuns (15-9, 6-3) time to piece a few rallies together against Georgia State (12-12, 2-4) starter Bryan White.
The strong effort came despite the fact that Lee had a stiff back before the start, coach Tony Robichaux said.
“He gutted it out,” Robichaux said.
Robichaux was just as impressed with how Lee responded after giving up a long home run to Panthers No. 3 hitter Joey Roach in the first inning.
Lee knew as soon as he let his fastball go that the result wasn’t going to be good. Catcher Nick Thurman set up a target inside, but Lee’s fastball drifted out over the heart of the plate, and Roach made him pay by swatting it onto the track behind the right-field fence.
“After the home run in the first inning,” Lee said. “I told myself that I had to keep fighting, keep battling. I knew that if I could get my pitches over, I’d be good.”
Lee retired 13 of the next 14 batters he faced, including a stretch of nine straight after Roach’s homer.
“He came right back and got another home run hitter right behind him,” Robichaux said. “That’s a good sign. Sometimes a freshman will run after that first home run, but that’s the whole thing about Nick: He’s not going to run.”
White pinned down the Cajuns offense for the first two innings, but center fielder Derek Herrington got things rolling in the third when he led off with a double that he sneaked inside fair territory down the left-field line.
Two batters later, Herrington came around to score easily, tying the score on Brenn Conrad’s booming double off the right-field wall.
Conrad’s double was the only hit of the game by the Cajuns’ No. 1 through 4 hitters. The bottom half of the lineup did plenty of damage, though.
Freshman designated hitter Dylon Poncho led off the fourth with a double and moved to third on Brad Antchak’s sacrifice bunt. Stefan Trosclair, who was bumped to the seventh spot in the order after a rough start to the season, brought home Poncho with an RBI single.
The Cajuns put one last rally together in the sixth, and again it was the bottom of the order doing the damage.
No. 8 hitter Nick Thurman ripped an RBI single to center with two outs and runners at the corners, and Herrington followed with an RBI single to make it 4-1.
The Nos. 5 through 9 spots in the lineup had seven of the Cajuns’ eight hits.
“We’re not top-heavy; we’re not relying on the top half,” Robichaux said. “We’re doing a good job of taking pressure off the hitters. When you bunt guys to third, it takes pressure off the hitter. The hitter can make an out and he knows he’s going to drive the run in.”
Dylan Moore recorded the final four outs to record his fifth save. Three of Moore’s five saves have required more than three outs.
The Cajuns will spend all of next week on the road, with a Tuesday game at Nicholls State followed by a weekend series against Arkansas State in Jonesboro.