The Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team entered the NCAA tournament’s Baton Rouge Regional with one of the nation’s most potent offenses, having led the country with 72 home runs during the regular season and having ranked third nationally with a .323 batting average.
But the Ragin’ Cajuns were silenced Friday night at Alex Box Stadium by a pair of Sam Houston State left-handers.
Starter Cody Dickson and reliever Alan Scott combined on a four-hitter in third-seeded Sam Houston’s 4-2 victory over No. 2 seed ULL, sending the Bearkats into the winners bracket and setting up a matchup with top seed LSU at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Cajuns will face fourth-seeded Jackson State in an elimination game at 2 p.m. and must prevail in four games in three days to win the regional.
“I thought it was a pretty good ball game,” Sam Houston coach David Pierce said. “Both teams left some runners on base. Both teams competed well in the circumstances — the environment and the excitement.”
The two runs by ULL (41-19) were about six shy of its 7.7-run average, which ranked fourth nationally. The Cajuns were held to their fewest runs in a game since a 7-2 loss to Arkansas-Little Rock on April 13. During four games at the Sun Belt tournament last week, ULL averaged 9.5 runs.
But Dickson had been hot. He threw 26 consecutive scoreless innings in his last five outings of the regular season, including a four-hit shutout against Central Arkansas in Sam Houston’s final series.
Dickson went 5.2 innings against ULL, giving up a manufactured run in the third and a second tally in the sixth on Blake Trahan’s two-out single. Sporting a 0.68 ERA, Scott entered in a 2-2 game and held ULL scoreless for the final 3.1 innings.
“I thought both of their kids threw really well,” ULL coach Tony Robichaux said. “We just couldn’t get on top of the ball throughout the night.”
Luke Plucheck had a big night for the Bearkats (38-20) at the plate. He gave Sam Houston an early 1-0 lead with his second-inning homer into the left-field bleachers, then struck for a two-run double in the seventh that broke a 2-2 tie.
Playing left field, Plucheck also made a big play on defense. With Scott having hit Chase Compton to bring the tying run to the plate with one out in the ninth, ULL star Dex Kjerstad hit a deep drive that had the looks of a game-tying homer. Plucheck retreated to the wall, then leaped to make the catch.
One batter later, Jace Conrad popped out in foul territory to end the game.
ULL reliever Kendall Mayer pitched 2.1 scoreless innings to finish the night, but that was after Sam Houston got to starter Ryan Wilson for two runs (one earned) on five hits and Matt Hicks for two runs (both earned) on three hits.