Bat explosion leaves Cajuns one win shy of Super Regional.
Sunday at 1:06 p.m. when Ryan Leonards stepped to the plate the Cajuns were two games behind Mississippi State in the Lafayette Regional. At 11:22 p.m., still barely Sunday, after Ben Carter struck out the last Bulldog, the Cajuns in the words of Coach Tony Robichaux had "evened up now."
Friday, a historic 1-0 loss to Jackson State (the Tigers first NCAA tournament win ever, the Cajuns first shutout of the season) left UL the task of winning four elimination games in a row to advance to next weekend's Super Regional. With a win over San Diego State Saturday (9-2) and Jackson State (11-1) and Mississippi State (14-8) both on Sunday, the Cajuns are one win from a remarkable recovery. At Tigue Moore at 6 p.m. tonight they face MSU before what will be another raucous crowd, rain or shine.
Weather did its part to lengthen Sunday's games but so did the Cajun bats. The three-hour lightning/rain delay in the middle of the Jackson State game ate up a lot of clock but so did the time it took UL to pound out 11 runs against the Tigers. After scoring a run in the top of the first without a hit, the Cajuns soon resumed normal service. In the second Jace Conrad hit a first pitch grand slam and the rout was on. Chris Charpentier in his first start gave up four hits in four innings and was stopped only by nearby lightning strikes. Matt Hicks held the Tigers scoreless after play resumed.
Even with a two-hour start-time delay of the Mississippi State game not all the eventual 3,729 in attendance were able to find their seats before the first pitch. Fortunately for the late arrivals the Cajuns batted second so almost all were present to witness Ryan Leonards opening bunt hit immediately followed by Jace Conrad's blast over the left field wall. For the day Conrad had six hits in 10 at bats, scored three runs and drove in nine. The Cajuns added another run in the second for a 3-0 lead. When Miss State tied it with three in the top of the third their fans sent up an "SEC, SEC, SEC" chant. After the Cajuns answered with three more runs in their half of the inning The Tigue echoed with "SBC, SBC, SBC."
The cheers continued as the Cajuns scored in each of the first six innings, highlighted by a six-run fourth when seven consecutive Cajuns reached base. Cody Boutte pitched 6.1 innings and after the third was never threatened. He was modest when he later said, "Behind 14 runs all you have to do is throw strikes."
Mississippi State coach John Cohen said, "[UL] did a great job. They are a good offensive club. It was a great atmosphere." But he seemed satisfied to have Lucas Laster (1.97 ERA) ready to start Monday night with ace reliever Jacob Lindgren (0.88 ERA) rested and ready.
For his part Robichaux thought Ryan Wilson (1.69 ERA, 5-0) would start but he wanted "to sleep on it."
No surprise there; it was past midnight.