ULL scores early, cruises past Southern

LAFAYETTE — Southern baseball coach Roger Cador knew early that his team was in for a struggle Tuesday night at ML “Tigue” Moore Field.

Very early ... like during Louisiana-Lafayette’s pre-game batting practice.

“When I saw those guys taking BP, I knew it was trouble,” Cador said after the Ragin’ Cajuns took an 11-6 victory. “They can really swing it ... a lot of those guys can really handle the bat.”

That feeling was reinforced early when ULL leadoff hitter Dex Kjerstad put the third pitch he saw from Jaguars starter Camilo Godoy over the left-field wall for a 1-0 lead, delighting the hometown crowd of 1,559 with the first of what would be a four-hit game for the Cajuns outfielder.

Eventually, ULL jumped to a 10-0 lead after five innings, scoring at least one run in all five, and finished the night with seven extra-base hits and three home runs among their 16 hits. That barrage off four different Southern pitchers gave ULL its sixth straight victory and 10 wins in its last 11 games.

“We saw that offense in the fall,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “We’re a year older at just about every spot. We’ve got a good mix of guys right now, and the good thing is that we don’t lose any position players unless the draft hurts us.”

The Cajuns (17-3) used eight pitchers — seven of them for one inning after starter and winner Chase Traffica (2-1) opened with two no-hit innings — and 16 position players.

“We got a lot of people in,” Robichaux said, “and we were able to get a lot of pitchers some work. That’s a good thing for the weekend.”

To their credit, the Jaguars (9-9) didn’t quit after falling behind by the double-digit margin. SU pushed across three runs each in the sixth and seventh innings to cut the margin to 10-6 before ULL got an insurance run in the seventh on Ryan Leonards’ bases-loaded walk.

“They didn’t roll over,” Cador said of his squad. “They fought back, and I’m happy they did. This is something they can learn from.”

Sean Washington, Marcus Tomlin and Caleb Hatcher opened the sixth with consecutive hits off ULL reliever Ben Frith, with Hatcher bringing in Washington with SU’s first run, Tomlin scoring on Derrick Hopkins’ ground ball and Bryan Rowry’s infield grounder plating Hatcher.

One inning later, a two-run single by Tomlin and Hatcher’s sacrifice fly off reliever Matt Plitt, following a walk, an error and a hit batsman, made it a four-run game.

“In those two innings they got us,” Robichaux said. “Our relievers gave up a couple of three-run innings and we’ve gotta stay away from that.”

By that time, ULL had jumped on Godoy (0-2) for seven hits and seven runs in the first 2.2 innings. After Kjerstad’s leadoff homer, he added an RBI triple in the second inning and scored on Caleb Adams’ fifth homer of the year for a 4-0 lead.

ULL added three more in the third on Nick Thurman’s two-out single that scored Jace Conrad, and a dropped popup by Jaguar second baseman Tomlin that allowed Sam Carriere and Thurman to score.

SU reliever John Pagan got the third out in that inning, but gave up a triple to Tyler Girouard and a two-run homer to Seth Harrison to start the fourth inning. Dylan Butler’s two-out double plated Kjerstad in the fifth for the 10-0 lead.

“We walked seven people and we left a lot of pitches over the plate,” Cador said. “But that’s a good-hitting team. They (ULL) play it right ... they pitch and they play defense.”

Even with the two big innings, the Jaguars only totaled five hits, with Hopkins’ infield single in the fourth the only SU hit outside of the scoring innings.

After Hatcher’s sacrifice fly in the seventh, Plitt got a ground ball to end the inning and ULL relievers Ben Carter and Matt Hicks retired the Jags in order in the final two innings — Carter striking out three straight in the eighth and Hicks inducing three ground balls in the ninth.