Florida Atlantic rallies in ninth to drop ULL, 5-4

LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette’s Matt Hicks may have set a career saves record on Friday night, but Florida Atlantic got some revenge against the Ragin’ Cajuns closer Saturday evening.

FAU third baseman Ricky Santiago lined a 2-2 pitch over the right-field wall at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field for a two-run homer off Hicks in the top of the ninth inning, bringing the Owls back from a one-run deficit and giving FAU a 5-4 victory over the Cajuns to even their Sun Belt Conference series.

The Owls (26-13, 11-6) reclaimed a share of the Sun Belt lead with the late victory, one that came on the heels of a 5-3 ULL win in Friday’s series opener. The teams will play the rubber game of their series at noon Sunday.

The Cajuns (26-13, 9-8) had snapped a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning when Dex Kjerstad singled with one out, moved to second on Jace Conrad’s ground ball and scored from second on Ryan Leonards’ RBI single off FAU starter Jeremy Strawn.

Hicks — who picked up his 13th career save in Friday’s opener to become ULL’s all-time leader — came on in the ninth and got Tyler Rocklein to ground out to open the inning. But Brendon Sanger singled to left before Santiago’s second homer of the season, and only the second given up this year by Hicks (3-1).

“You have to give him credit,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “It’s hard to lift Matt’s sinker, but he put a good swing on it. We were two outs away with our closer there, so it’s tough.”

ULL put a runner on in the bottom of the ninth on Nick Thurman’s one-out single, but FAU closer Hugh Adams coaxed a fly ball from Blake Trahan, then struck out Chase Compton for his Sun Belt-leading 12th save of the year.

Bo Logan (4-0) picked up the win, only throwing to one batter in the eighth in replacing Strawn after Leonards’ go-ahead single. Strawn had scattered eight hits while fanning three in seven and two-thirds innings for the Owls, allowing only five hits after the first inning when ULL took a 2-0 lead.

Santiago’s homer gave FAU its first lead of the series and came two innings after Corey Keller’s solo homer in the seventh had tied the game 3-3.

“That’s a good team,” Robichaux said. “We knew they weren’t going to go away. You’ve got to play all nine innings and tonight we played eight. We were two outs away from playing with house money tomorrow.”

Leonards’ RBI single and Tyler Girouard’s ground ball had scored Kjerstad and Conrad with the two first-inning runs, but FAU cut it to 2-1 in the third on the first of Keller’s three hits and Nathan Pittman’s RBI grounder.

Seth Harrison’s second homer in as many nights in the fourth inning gave ULL a 3-1 lead behind Cajuns starter Ryan Wilson, who scattered eight hits and fanned five in seven innings. Wilson allowed one run on Rocklein’s sacrifice fly in the sixth before Keller’s tying homer in the seventh.