Matt Plitt, Michael Strentz lead Ragin’ Cajuns past Southeastern

Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Louisiana-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux watches his team during a game last season. The Ragin' Cajuns got eight innings from pitcher Matt Plitt and defeated Southeastern Louisiana 9-6 on Wednesday at M.L.
Advocate file photo by JOHN OUBRE -- Louisiana-Lafayette baseball coach Tony Robichaux watches his team during a game last season. The Ragin' Cajuns got eight innings from pitcher Matt Plitt and defeated Southeastern Louisiana 9-6 on Wednesday at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field.

LAFAYETTE — Matt Plitt
provided the pitching and Michael Strentz provided just about everything else for Louisiana-Lafayette’s baseball squad Wednesday night.

Plitt, starting for only the second time this year, threw eight strong innings and Strentz accounted for the first four Ragin’ Cajun runs, helping ULL to a 6-3 victory over Southeastern Louisiana and a sweep of their season series.

The Cajuns (29-13) won their fourth game in their last five outings, following an 11-9 win at McNeese State on Tuesday night, and they did it with six of their nine hits going for extra bases.

Strentz had two of those — a second-inning double that scored two runs and a first-pitch two-run homer in the seventh that put ULL ahead to stay at 4-2. The Cajuns catcher has been hampered by a fracture in his non-throwing hand since the third week of the season.

“My strength is just starting to come back there,” said Strentz. “I’ve been trying to focus on just making good contact and taking it to center field.”

That was all the support that Plitt (3-0) needed. He allowed solo runs in the first, sixth and eighth innings and scattered seven hits before Ryan Wilson came on to record three straight outs in the ninth for his first save.

“He never let the game get bad for him,” ULL coach Tony Robichaux said of Plitt. “He gave our hitters a chance, and then we got the big knocks in the seventh.”

The Lions (26-16) had battled back to tie the game 2-2 with an unearned run, scoring on Harry Slade’s ground ball in the sixth. But Dylan Butler led off the seventh for the Cajuns with a triple to the left-center gap off reliever Sean Kennel (4-3), and Strentz followed with a blast down the line in left field on Kennel’s opening curveball.

Back-to-back singles by Sam Carriere and Dex Kjerstad pushed across one more run, and after SLU cut it to 5-3 in the eighth on Jameson Fisher’s one-out triple and a passed ball, Plitt got out of a one-out jam on a missed squeeze play and a ground ball back to the box.

“He had complete confidence in himself,” Strentz said of Plitt, who walked five and fanned three in a 122-pitch effort — more than twice his previous career pitch-count high of 53 against LSU. “Early in the year, he got hit some, but now he really believes in his stuff.”

Butler’s RBI single in the eighth, giving him three hits for the night and six in two nights, added the final run.

The Lions gave starter Jordan Hymel an early 1-0 lead on singles by Ben Hernandez and Fisher and a two-out double down the third-base line by Harry Slade in the first inning. But in the bottom of the second, Caleb Adams walked and Blake Trahan doubled, and Hymel left the game after fanning Butler for the first out in the inning due to a pitch count.

Strentz then greeted Kennel with a two-run double to right-center that gave the Cajuns a 2-1 lead.

Kennel pitched around two ULL runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings and retired eight in a row at one point before Butler’s triple to lead off the seventh. That was part of an attack at the bottom of the lineup that saw ULL get six of its nine hits from the seventh, eighth and ninth hitters in the batting order.

“The guys up at the top are such good base reachers,” Robichaux said. “With guys that swing it like they do at the bottom of the lineup, they just keep coming at you.”