Big rally propels Ragin’ Cajuns past Troy

LAFAYETTE — A five-run sixth inning and strong pitching over the final six innings
propelled Louisiana-Lafayette to a comeback 7-6 victory over Troy on Friday night in the opening game of their Sun Belt Conference baseball series.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (21-8, 5-5) trailed 5-0 in the third inning against the league’s top-hitting team, but starting pitcher Ryan Wilson and reliever Seth Harrison combined to allow a lone run on only four hits over the final six frames.

Meanwhile, ULL exploded for six hits in the sixth inning off Troy starter Tanner Hicks, who had checked the Cajuns on one unearned run through the first five innings.

In the sixth, however, he allowed hits to ULL’s first five batters, including an RBI single by Blake Trahan and a two-run single by Ryan Leonards, which made it a 5-4 game.

After reliever Nate Hill recorded two outs and threw three wide pitches to Michael Strentz, the Cajuns catcher took the 3-0 pitch to right field for his third hit of the game, scoring Dex Kjerstad and Leonards with the tying and go-ahead runs.

“Sometimes you throw ‘miss’ pitches that don’t,” ULL coach Tony Robichaux said. “We had a ‘miss’ changeup called that went for a three-run homer. It’s hard to do that sometime. But when Mike can go that way, he’s a dangerous hitter.”

Harrison came on to start the seventh and gave up three extra-base hits to the first five batters, including a solo homer by Trae Santos — his second of the game — in the eighth that made it a one-run game. But he retired the last five batters he faced, four of them on ground balls, for his third save in the last three ULL games.

In all, Troy (20-8, 6-4) had nine of its 11 hits go for extra bases, including three in the second inning when Troy erupted for four runs. The biggest of those hits was Brandon Brown’s two-out three-run homer to left-center, his first of the season, after Matthew Howard’s double and a two-out walk to Ali Knowles.

Tyler Vaughn followed with a double and scored on Logan Pierce’s single, and Santos’ leadoff homer in the third made it 5-0.

Wilson, though, allowed only two more hits over the next three innings and retired the last seven batters he faced.

“Give him a lot of credit,” Robichaux said of Wilson (3-1). “He settled in and didn’t let the game get away from him. He slowed it down ... that’s a really good hitting team over there, and then Harry (Harrison) did a good job the last three innings.

“Our hitters came back at them. We were getting people on early and didn’t take advantage, but they didn’t hang their heads. You look for a game that can jump-start you, and this was a good one.”

ULL had lost five of its last six in Sun Belt play, and won a series opener for the first time since a March 15 home win over UL-Monroe.

The Cajuns are now 17-2 at home this season.

The Cajuns had scratched for one run off Hicks (3-2) in the third when Trahan reached on a third-strike passed ball and eventually scored on Tyler Girouard’s single. ULL also got an insurance run in the seventh without a hit when Harrison drew a one-out walk, Jace Conrad was hit by a pitch, both moved up on stolen bases and Harrison scored on Trahan’s squeeze bunt.

That run became important when Santos took an 0-2 pitch over the center-field wall to lead off the eighth. Howard followed with a double to put the tying run in scoring position, but Harrison induced two ground balls including an inning-ending double play and retired three in a row in the ninth.