Ragin’ Cajuns welcome Troy for Sun Belt series

LAFAYETTE — Troy will take its seven-game winning streak to M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field for a three-game Sun Belt Conference baseball series this weekend at Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Ragin’ Cajuns, meanwhile, need a strong showing to get their season back on track.

ULL has won nine straight home games and is enjoying a strong season overall. But the Cajuns have dropped five of their first nine Sun Belt games, falling into a tie for sixth place.

ULL (20-8, 4-5) is three games out of first place and two games behind third-place Troy (20-7, 6-3). The teams play the series opener at 6 p.m. Friday.

Troy has won five straight Sun Belt games after sweeping Middle Tennessee last week and winning the final two games at Louisiana-Monroe the week before. Troy’s seven-game overall win streak is its longest since 2008.

ULL opened its Sun Belt schedule with a sweep of ULM at home before going on the road for series at Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky; the Cajuns were swept at MTSU and dropped two of three at WKU.

The key to Troy’s recent success has been its pitching staff. The Trojans have held opponents to three or fewer runs in six straight games. Troy pitchers have also held their opponents to a .180 batting average over that six-game stretch; additionally, the Trojans have posted a 1.38 ERA and struck out 57 batters over those 52 innings.

Junior right-hander Tanner Hicks (3-1, 3.76) will start Friday’s opener. Hicks struck out six and did not allow an earned run in 5.1 innings last week against the Blue Raiders.

Louisiana-Lafayette ranks second in the Sun Belt in hitting with a.306 team average. The Cajuns rank fourth in the league with 58 doubles, second with nine triples and third with 24 homers.

Will Starling (4-2, 4.96), who is coming off his best outing of the season, will start for the Trojans on Saturday. The junior right-hander limited Middle Tennessee to just three hits over seven scoreless innings; he struck out a career-high eight batters.

Junior southpaw Shane McCain (5-0, 3.46) is scheduled to make the start in the finale for Troy. McCain struck out a career-high nine over seven innings in a victory over Middle Tennessee. McCain has struck out 43 batters in 39 innings.

Junior left-hander Ryan Wilson (2-1, 2.43) will start the opener. Sophomore right-hander Austin Robichaux (3-2, 3.10) will get the call Saturday, followed by junior left-hander Cody Boutte (5-1, 4.87) on Sunday.

Anchored by Nate Hill and Matthew Howard, the Troy bullpen has been solid all season. Howard enters the weekend with five saves to his credit and has not allowed a run in 11 of hits 13 appearances on the mound. Hill ranks sixth in the NCAA averaging 12.21 strikeouts per nine innings and comes into the series with three holds and a save.

Senior Logan Pierce has taken over the batting average lead for the Trojans as he enters the series with the Ragin Cajuns batting at a .411 clip. Trae Santos slugged his Sun Belt leading fourth triple of the year against Alabama State on Tuesday while Danny Collins leads the Sun Belt in slugging percentage and Tyler Vaughn leads the league in runs scored.