Harrison’s grand slam boosts Cajuns over FAU

LAFAYETTE — Seth Harrison and the Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team wiped out a lot of bad overnight memories very early here Sunday afternoon.

Harrison had a grand slam in the first inning, and the Ragin’ Cajuns scored six first-inning runs — five before Florida Atlantic recorded an out — on the way to a 12-2 victory over the Owls in the finale of their Sun Belt Conference weekend series.

The Cajuns (27-13, 10-8) scored 12 runs in the first five innings in taking a seven-inning run-rule victory, 18 hours after ULL fell 5-4 and saw a late lead evaporate on a ninth-inning FAU two-run homer Saturday.

“These guys are responders,” Cajun coach Tony Robichaux said after ULL continued its streak of six home-field weekend series victories. “After last night, they answered the call. It wasn’t like we played poorly, even though that was an emotional loss in a late game, so today was easier to come back and get to work.”

ULL got to work early thanks to Harrison. The junior had his second grand slam in Sun Belt play this year after Dex Kjerstad walked and Jace Conrad and Ryan Leonards had back-to-back bunt singles to load the bases. He laced a 1-2 pitch from Owl starter Brandon Rhodes over the left-field wall, giving him a homer in each of the three weekend games against the Owls (26-14, 11-7).

“He’s making really good adjustments,” Robichaux said of Harrison, who scored three of the Cajuns’ runs Sunday and had four extra-base hits in the series. “He’s one of those guys that can make a bad swing, fix it and get back on the next pitch.”

ULL got three more hits after Harrison’s blast, with Dylan Butler’s RBI double and Joe Robbins’ sacrifice fly bringing in the other two first-inning runs off Rhodes (3-2).

“This is a tough team to pitch against as a freshman,” Robichaux said of his club. “We wanted to get him (Rhodes) in trouble early and then finish him ... that’s the difference in last night, we finished today.”

The early outburst was more than enough support for Cajun starter Cody Boutte (6-2), whose seven-inning complete game included six strikeouts and single runs in the fifth and seventh innings. FAU’s only runs came on hits by Brendon Sanger and Corey Keller and Mitch Morales’ RBI grounder in the fifth, and Sean Murrell’s run-scoring double in the seventh that scored Ricky Santiago, whose two-run homer in Saturday’s ninth inning gave the Owls the middle game of the series.

Boutte retired the first nine batters he faced and didn’t allow a hit until Sanger’s leadoff single in the fifth.

“On the scoreboard, it looks easy to pitch with a lead, but it’s not,” Robichaux said. “You have to be careful, but he was able to mix it up and keep spotting the breaking ball.”

ULL added two runs on a wild pitch and Nick Thurman’s RBI single in the second inning. And Dylan Butler’s two-run homer in the fourth — his third hit of the game — made it 10-0. Caleb Adams also had three hits as part of ULL’s 12-hit attack off five Owl pitchers, and his two-run double in the fifth scored Conrad and Harrison with what became the clinching runs.

The last run-rule victory before Sunday came against Middle Tennessee last season, and the last run-rule win at home was against UL-Monroe two years ago.

The win kept ULL in the top half of the top-heavy Sun Belt standings with four weekend series remaining. The Cajuns go to McNeese State on Tuesday and host Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday before a weekend Sun Belt series at Florida International.