UL-Lafayette uses late rally to claim wild series opener against ULM

LAFAYETTE — Greg Davis continued to swing a hot bat and Louisiana-Lafayette’s bullpen came to the fore Thursday night, and the result was another Ragin’ Cajun rally and a Sun Belt Conference series-opening victory.

Davis’ two-run triple in the sixth keyed a three-run inning that gave the Cajuns the lead for good, and Matt Hicks and Ryan Wilson combined to slow down Louisiana-Monroe in the final five innings as the hosts took a 12-9 victory to open the final regular-season series for both teams.

UL-Lafayette (47-7, 24-4 Sun Belt) trailed 6-3 early as the Warhawks came out hot against Cajuns starter Greg Milhorn, and ULM still led 9-7 before Caleb Adams and Chase Compton had one-out singles in the sixth off Warhawks reliever Alex Dumaine (3-5).

Davis followed by lacing an 0-1 pitch over a leaping ULM right fielder Jacob Stockton to score the tying runs, and Davis scored moments later on Dylan Butler’s squeeze bunt off reliever Josh Leone. The Cajuns added single runs in the seventh and eighth on Adams’ RBI single and Bultler’s solo home run.

“Our guys have been very good at answering back,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “And Matt (Hicks) turned the momentum of the game back around.”

Hicks (6-1) entered the game in the fourth inning after Milhorn and reliever Riley Cooper allowed 10 hits and eight runs through the first 3.1 innings. He struck out the first two batters he faced, allowed an unearned run on Trent Lucas’ single in the fifth and then retired five of the final six batters he faced.

Wilson was even more effective, setting down the final nine Warhawks hitters over the final three innings with five strikeouts, three ground balls and one flyball out in getting his seventh save.

“(Wilson) is really tough in that situation,” Robichaux said. “I like us in the eighth and ninth innings, and now hopefully we have Hicks back up and running in the middle.”

Regular series-opening starter Austin Robichaux did not see action and will likely throw only short relief in the final two games before the Sun Belt Conference Tournament next Wednesday in Mobile, Ala. Cajun junior right-hander Carson Baranik (9-1) will start Friday’s 6 p.m. game against ULM junior righthander Chris Hunt (2-4).

The Warhawks (22-32, 11-17 Sun Belt), who likely need one win this weekend to secure a spot in the eight-team league tournament, took a 2-0 lead on Ross Moore’s sacrifice fly and Justin Stawychny’s RBI double in the second. Seth Harrison’s two-run triple in the bottom of the inning keyed a three-run inning that gave the Cajuns a 3-2 lead.

However, ULM put up four in the third on Dalton Herrington’s two-run homer and Jacob Stockton’s two-run single, giving the Warhawks a lead they wouldn’t give up until the sixth inning.

Davis, who was 6-for-8 in last week’s sweep at South Alabama, had a two-run homer in the third to put the Cajuns back within a run at 6-5, but ULM added two more on Kodie Tidwell’s triple and Harrington’s double sandwiched around an error. Hicks, though, came in to get out of the inning, and the first of Adams’ three hits in the final five innings pushed across two runs in the fourth to make it 8-7.

Lucas’ RBI single scored Stockton for a two-run lead in the fifth, but that was the last hit the Warhawks would manage.

“They had the momentum,” Hicks said, “and we had to stop that. In a situation like that, you just try to get it over the plate and let our defense do its job. We knew our hitters were going to come back.”