Cajuns Split Doubleheader, Win Series Against UT-Arlington
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns lost the first game of Saturday's doubleheader 6-2 against the UT-Arlington Mavericks, but rallied late in the series finale to take game three 7-4 and win the huge Sun Belt series on the road.
The Cajuns are now 28-21 overall and 11-10 in Sun Belt Conference play. They are one game behind the Mavericks for the lead in the Sun Belt West Division.
Connor Cooke got the start for Louisiana in the opening game of the doubleheader, and the Mavericks got to him early. UT-Arlington took advantage of four free baserunners given up in the first inning, and they scored four runs on only two hits.
They stretched their lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning with a two-out RBI-single. Cooke fell to 6-3 this season after pitching six innings, giving up five runs on only four hits with three walks. Only two of the five runs were earned.
Through the first six innings of the first game, Louisiana catcher Drake Osborn was 2-2, but the rest of the lineup was 1-17.
They finally scored a run in the seventh inning with two two-out hits. A single by Bobby Lada and a RBI-double by Jonathan Brandon made it 5-1. The Cajuns loaded the bases in the top of the eighth with two outs, but a strikeout prevented them from getting back into the game.
UT-Arlington added to their lead with one run in the bottom half of the eighth inning. Brandon Talley answered with his first home run as a Cajun with two outs in the ninth, but Louisiana lost 6-2.
Louisiana associate head coach Anthony Babineaux said the big issue in the loss came at the plate.
"We didn't have enough good at-bats," Babineaux said. "We've just got to do a better job with our at-bats. We've got to get above balls with line drives, and we've got to do a better job offensively."
The loss set up a rubber match in the series finale.
UT-Arlington started the scoring with a two-run, two-out RBI-single in the second inning off of Cajuns starter Hayden Durke.
Louisiana answered with a two-out, two-run RBI-single of their own in the top of the third by Brennan Breaux to tie the game at 2-2.
It only took two pitches in the bottom half of the third for the Mavericks to retake the lead. A solo home run made it 3-2, and another solo home run with two outs stretched the lead back to 4-2 and erased the work the Cajuns had done in the top half of the inning.
Louisiana recorded three hits in the fourth inning, and a two-out RBI-single by Brandon dug into the lead, but a strikeout stranded the tying runner in scoring position and kept it at 4-3.
Carter Robinson came out of the bullpen in a tough situation in the fourth inning, but he got a double-play to get out of a bases-loaded jam and keep the Cajuns in it. Robinson was great out of the bullpen for Louisiana, tossing three scoreless innings with two strikeouts, and he only allowed one hit.
The issue in game three was clutch hitting. While Robinson was keeping Louisiana within a run, the Cajuns kept getting runners in scoring position, but they could not get a big RBI-hit to tie the game or take the lead. Through seven innings, the team had only three runs on 11 hits and were 2-12 at the plate with runners in scoring position. They stranded a runner in scoring position in four consecutive innings.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Mavericks loaded the bases, but Blake Marshall used two strikeouts to shift momentum back to Louisiana.
The offense finally took advantage in the eighth. After two batters were hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning, Lada cracked his third hit of the game to bring a run home and tie it. Brandon followed with a RBI-single to give Louisiana their first lead of the day at 5-4.
Lada and Brandon combined to go 6-8 with three RBIs and one run scored from the eight and nine holes of the starting lineup in the series finale.
The Cajuns had a chance to break the game open in the eighth with runners at the corners and nobody out, but a strikeout and double-play kept their lead at one run.
Jason Nelson pitched a scoreless eighth inning to keep Louisiana in front, and the offense added insurance in the top of the ninth.
Breaux hit a leadoff double, and Connor Kimple brought him home on a RBI-single to record Louisiana's 15th hit of the day.
A throwing error by the Mavericks pitcher got pinch-runner Alex Hannie to third base without any outs, and a squeeze bunt by Tyler Robertson brought him home to make it 7-4.
Talley came on in the ninth and retired all three batters he faced to earn his seventh save of the year.
Louisiana scored four runs in the final two innings to come back and win the series. They were 3-6 with runners in scoring position in those innings after their poor start.
Louisiana head coach Matt Deggs complimented his bullpen and team defense.
"It was a long, tough day after an emotional hard-fought game last night," Deggs said. "The bullpen was phenomenal again. I thought our defense was good all weekend."
Deggs mentioned that Louisiana has a chance to win the West Division in the final series of the regular season.
"Those big hits salvaged the last game and gave us a chance to win the division next weekend," Deggs said.
Up next, the Cajuns travel to play UNO on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. before hosting Troy for the final series of the regular season.