Louisiana-Lafayette is going to have to win three games in the next two days in order to win the NCAA Lafayette regional.
If there’s a bright side to that challenge it might be that the Ragin’ Cajuns have plenty of pitching to lean on.
No. 1-ranked UL-Lafayette dropped into the losers bracket by losing to Jackson State 1-0 on Friday, then stayed alive by eliminating San Diego State 9-2 on Saturday afternoon at Moore Field. It has used just three pitchers from what has been a deep pitching staff down the stretch.
“I think that’s important because we’ve got a longer road to travel now,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said.
Friday starter Austin Robichaux threw eight-plus innings Friday and Carson Baranik followed with a 6.1-inning start Saturday. All 5.2 innings of relief have been handled by Matt Plitt.
“I think the way the season ended where we played a lot of close games, had to come from behind, had a 14-inning game — all of that pitched our bullpen a lot down the stretch,” coach Robichaux said. “Usually when things happen like that, they happen for a reason. I think that happened to set our bullpen and give us some experience, and we’re going to have to call on that over the next two days.”
The Cajuns’ at-bat Saturday in the top of the third inning was extended when the umpires overruled themselves on an apparent inning-ending double play.
Seth Harrison was on first base with one out when Dylan Butler hit a line drive to center. Harrison played it halfway, then slipped as he started to return to first. Center fielder Ryan Muno’s throw pulled first baseman Steven Pallares off the base, but second-base umpire Mike Morris called Harrison out.
The Aztecs ran into the third-base dugout as Harrison stayed at first and Tony Robichaux talked with Morris. The umpires then huddled and signaled Harrison safe at first. SDSU coach Mike Martinez came out to the mound to talk to the umpires, then returned to the dugout as his team returned to the field.
“The second-base umpire rotated to center field and the first-base and home-plate umpires both were looking at the base and saw the foot come off,” Martinez said. “The big thing is they got it right.”
Harrison reached second on a wild pitch, but the inning ended for good when Michael Strentz struck out.
Outs on the bases
Though Harrison wasn’t doubled off after the over-rule, the Cajuns had base-running problems for the second consecutive game.
After having two runners thrown out on the bases in a 1-0 loss to Jackson State on Friday, UL-Lafayette ran into more trouble in the first inning Saturday. Ryan Leonards led off the game with a single and went to third when Jace Conrad followed with a single.
When a pitch bounced a few feet from catcher Brad Haynal, Conrad broke for second and Haynal threw him out.
One out later, Tyler Girouard singled home Leonards, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
In the sixth, Caleb Adams was tagged out after overrunning third on Harrison’s squeeze-bunt single.
Defense giveth, taketh away
The Cajuns defense got them into trouble in the bottom of the first, but helped them get out of it without allowing a run.
With one out, Tim Zier reached on a two-base throwing error by shortstop Blake Trahan. Ty France followed with a single to center, but Harrison threw Zier out at the plate. Baranik then got Haynal on a pop to second to end the inning.
In addition, Trahan and third baseman Leonards made outstanding defensive plays later in the game.
The top 10
The watch list for the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year award was cut to 10 semifinalists on Friday and Trahan made that list for the award presented by Collegiate Baseball magazine and presented June 28 in Lubbock, Texas.
Trahan was named the Most Outstanding Player in last week’s Sun Belt Conference tournament in Mobile after going 7-for-12, and opened the NCAA Lafayette regional with a 3-for-5 performance.
LSU’s Alex Bregman was also one of the semifinalists along with Alabama’s Mikey White, Maryland’s Chet Schmitt, Tennessee Tech’s Dylan Bosheers, North Carolina State’s Trea Turner, Mercer’s Michael Massi, New Mexico’s Sam Haggerty, Michael Russell of North Carolina and Vince Conde of Vanderbilt.
UL-Lafayette’s win continued a season-long trend that has helped the Cajuns carry the nation’s best record (54-8) into Sunday’s play. The Cajuns have not lost back-to-back games this season, and only once this season have the Cajuns lost two games in any four-game span. ... The 15 hits in the victory over San Diego State gave UL-Lafayette its 38th double-digit hit game in 62 games this year. The Cajuns came within one run of their 18th double-digit run game. ... UL-Lafayette had two more bunt singles on Saturday from Harrison and Trahan, giving the team 46 for the season. ... Harrison had gone 0-for-18 over the Cajuns’ last five games before going 3-for-4 Saturday with two runs scored and two RBI. He has 60 RBI this season, becoming UL-Lafayette’s first to reach that mark since current Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy had 68 in both 2006 and 2007. ...
Baranik’s win improved him to 11-1, the most wins since Hunter Moody won 12 games in 2006.
Les East, Dan McDonald and Bobby Ardoin contributed to this report.