Louisiana-Lafayette leaned on Cody Boutte for a quality start to stave off elimination.
After barely two innings and three runs, he faltered against Sam Houston State.
But Matt Plitt trotted from the bullpen at Alex Box Stadium on Saturday to fortify and stabilize the Ragin’ Cajuns, retiring the first 15 batters he faced over seven stellar innings in a 7-5 victory that eliminated the Bearkats from the NCAA tournament regional.
“I did what was I called on to do, and that was keep my team in the game,” said Plitt, who allowed two runs on four hits and struck out two in his longest relief outing of the season.
It helped offset a poor start from Boutte, who threw 29 pitches against Sam Houston, then was called upon again to start against LSU on Sunday night (he threw 104 more pitches in a 5-1 loss to the Tigers, giving him 133 for the day).
The Ragin’ Cajuns rallied from an early 3-0 deficit, pulling even in the third inning on Tyler Girouard’s RBI grounder and followed up by Caleb Adam’s home run — the first of two — to right field.
ULL scored again one inning later.
Catcher Michael Strentz got on base after Sam Houston shortstop Carter Burgess’ throwing error on a routine grounder let him advance to second base. Bearkats starter Andrew Goodail (5-4) — who went seven innings and allowed five runs on four hits — uncorked a wild pitch to move Strentz to third. That was followed by a botched double play on a ground ball from Jace Conrad, which allowed Strentz to score for a 4-3 lead.
One batter later, Chase Compton singled and scored Conrad, who had stolen second base, to push the lead to two runs.
In the bottom of the second, Burgess doubled to left to score Luke Plucheck, who led off with a single, to make it 1-0. Two batters later, second baseman Ryan Farney hit a two-run homer to left field, and Boutte was done.
Meanwhile, Plitt (4-1) cruised, not allowing his first base runner for Sam Houston (38-22) until the bottom of the seventh inning to right fielder O’Hearn.
The Cajuns extended their lead in the top of the ninth inning, when Conrad hit a two-run homer for a 7-3 lead.
The Bearkats made a last bid to extend their season in the bottom of the ninth, starting with a solo homer from catcher Anthony Azar.
Two batters later, Burgess walked and moved to third on O’Hearn’s single, putting runners at the corners with one out, leading to Plitt being lifted.
Shea Pierce reached on a fielder’s choice and scored O’Hearn, trimming the lead to 7-5 and bringing the tying run to the plate.
Reliever Matt Hicks hit Farney to load the bases, but Jessie Plumlee flied out to left field to end it.
“You are always thinking base hit, possibly (a) ball in the gap, you win the ballgame,” SHSU coach David Pierce said. “But ... the season is over. So it is kind of tough to swallow.”
And with that, ULL coach Tony Robichaux began scouring his roster for available arms against the Tigers.
“We’re going to go find someone who’s not hiding,” Robichaux said.
He settled on Boutte. Again.
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