Ragin’ Cajuns get early jump on Arkansas State

LAFAYETTTE — One of Louisiana-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux’s mantras is to get to a quality opposing pitcher early.

His Ragin’ Cajuns followed that plan Friday, scoring multiple runs in each of the first three innings off Arkansas State starter Daniel Wright. That early burst paced ULL in an 11-4 victory over the Red Wolves in the opening game of their Sun Belt Conference baseball series at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.

The Cajuns (32-15, 13-9 Sun Belt) had their 27th double-digit-hit game of the season before the end of the fourth inning, and they led 7-2 after the first three innings.

“This hitting lineup, one through nine — they can hurt you anywhere up and down the lineup,” Robichaux said. “He (Wright) is a good arm, but the way these guys are swinging, you can’t pick your way through.”

The Cajuns — who lead the nation in slugging percentage (now at .493) and rank eighth in hitting (now at .316) — rapped out 13 hits off Wright (5-4), who went seven innings and gave up all 11 earned runs.

That offensive attack came in support of ULL starter Austin Robichaux (7-2), who moved into a tie for the Sun Belt lead in wins. Robichaux scattered eight hits and fanned six in seven innings, giving up two runs each in the third and seventh innings, before relievers Ryan Wilson and Ben Carter worked one perfect inning apiece.

“(Robichaux) did a good job of keeping the game under control,” Tony Robichaux said. “He’s learning how to stay away from the big inning.”

The teams play the middle game of the series at 6:05 p.m. Saturday with ULL junior left-hander Cody Boutte (7-2), who shares the league lead in wins with Robichaux and Shane McCain of Troy, facing ASU junior right-hander Bradley Wallace (4-1).

RBI singles by Seth Harrison and Blake Trahan provided a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and the Cajuns added three more in the second. Two of them scored on Ryan Leonards’ squeeze bunt, which scored Michael Strentz from third and Dex Kjerstad from second on ASU catcher Ryan Roberts’ throw to first.

Leonards later scored on Tyler Girouard’s double off the first-base bag that made it 5-0.

The Wolves got two in the third on three straight hits from Alex Potts, Dustin Jones and Collin Massanelli, but ULL got those back in the bottom of the inning when Jace Conrad scored on a wild pitch and Leonards’ RBI single scored Kjerstad. Strentz’s triple and Conrad’s sacrifice fly added a run in the fifth for an 8-2 lead.

Jones’ double and Massanelli’s single in the seventh cut the margin to 8-4 before Robichaux got out of the inning, and Conrad provided breathing room in the seventh with his second homer of the season, scoring Trahan and Strentz in front of him.

“You have to get to quality pitchers early, or you usually won’t get to them,” Tony Robichaux said. “We were fortunate enough to do that early. This lineup can put a lot of pressure on opposing pitchers when they’re swinging like this.”