Walk Off By CJ Willis Lifts Louisiana in Extra Inning Thriller Over Southeastern
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball team beat the Southeastern Louisiana Lions 6-5 in an extra inning thriller at Russo Park on Tuesday night.
It was CJ Willis who provided the walk off double in the bottom of the 10th inning for the Cajuns, but the journey to get there was intense. With the win, Louisiana improved to 3-1 overall before their big series of games this weekend at the Round Rock Classic in Texas.
Head coach Matt Deggs credited Louisiana fans that came out to the park for a midweek battle.
"I'm just happy for these kids and all these great fans," Deggs said. "We have the best fans in the country. There's magic in this place. You just have to tap into it, and they did right there."
Deggs also talked about the team effort in a hard fought victory.
"It was a big team effort, Deggs added. "Everybody contributed. You have to credit Southeastern. They played hard. We were generous with a lot of walks and hit-by-pitches. It speaks to these guys' resilience to be able to still find a way to win."
Brandon Talley got the start for the Cajuns, and he was able to strand two base runners in a scoreless first inning.
Max Marusak got an infield single to open the bottom half of the first for Louisiana, and he instantly started causing stress for Southeastern with his speed on the base paths. He stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error. Kyle DeBarge walked, and, with one out, Carson Roccaforte crushed a RBI-double. He made it to third base on a throwing error, but the Cajuns weren't able to bring him home. Louisiana still took a 2-0 lead early on.
Talley bounced back in the second inning, throwing only eight pitches to record three outs after he tossed 33 in the opening frame. Deggs replaced him with Hayden Durke for his 2022 debut in the third. Durke struggled to throw strikes, and he loaded the based with two walks and a hit-by-pitch.
Jacob Schultz entered with one out and gave up a single that scored the Lions' first run. However, he used a double-play to get out of the jam with the Cajuns still in the lead. Louisiana's bats had their first quiet inning to end the third.
Schultz got a pair of strikeouts in a clean fourth, and the bottom half of the Cajuns batting order came up big in the inning. Heath Hood walked, and Julian Brock brought him in with a RBI-double. Bobby Lada came up next and scored Brock with another RBI-double. Lada advanced to third with a wild pitch, but a strikeout and fly-out stranded him. Louisiana still finished the inning with a 4-1 lead.
Austin Perrin relieved Schultz in the fifth and recorded two strikeouts in a scoreless frame. The Cajuns tried to spark a two-out rally with a Connor Kimple double. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and Willis was hit-by a pitch. A groundout ended the threat and stranded a runner on third for the third time in five innings.
Perrin's night finished after that one frame, and the sixth spiraled nearly into disaster for Louisiana. Chipper Menard came on for the Cajuns and got a quick strikeout. On the second batter he faced, he didn't get a called strike three, and the at-bat extended. It concluded in a hit-by-pitch, and a triple brought Southeastern's second run in. A throwing error scored another run, and, after Menard got his second strikeout, a double and another hit-by-pitch ended his night.
Drew Shifflet entered and finally ended the inning with a groundout. Louisiana's lead diminished to 4-3, and their bats went down in order in the bottom half of the sixth. Southeastern had the momentum, but the Cajuns still held the lead.
Shifflet hit a batter with two outs but a pop-out quickly finished that inning. After the top of the Cajuns lineup went down in order, Shifflet continued his strong play with three more easy outs.
The bottom half of the eighth had Louisiana's first hit since the fifth inning. Willis cracked a double down the left field line with one out and tried to advance on a fly-out by Hood. Instead, the umpire ruled that he left second base early, and the Lions tagged the base for an inning-ending double-play. The Cajuns were unable to tack on an insurance run, and Deggs went back to Shifflet to finish off his save attempt in the ninth.
Shifflet started with a pop-up, but he hit the next batter he faced. Louisiana's pitching staff hit seven batters in the game, but this one didn't haunt them because the runner was caught stealing. With two outs and the bases empty, Southeastern stayed alive with a two-strike triple. The next at-bat was a double that ended Shifflet's night and tied the game. Southeastern had three two out hits in the game, and two of them came in the final frame of regulation.
Jake Hammond entered for Louisiana with the leading run on second and recorded a strikeout to end the threat. In the bottom half of the ninth, Lada walked and stole second base with two outs. However, the umpire crew called a strikeout on a check swing at the plate, and the two teams went into extra innings.
Hammond gave up a leadoff single in the 10th, and a bunt moved the leading run to second base. With two outs, he hit a Southeastern batter and walked another to load the bases. This time, the umpire crew ruled that the Lions hitter held up on a check swing, and another walk brought in the leading run. Hammond finished with a strikeout, but the Lions had their first lead of the night.
DeBarge started the bottom of the 10th with a leadoff single, and a single by Roccaforte put runners at the corners without any outs. Jonathan Brandon grounded into a fielder's choice to bring the tying run in, and he beat out the double-play. In the next at-bat, Willis crushed another double. This time, it went to center field, and Brandon won a play at the plate to end the game in walk-off fashion. The Cajuns finished off a thriller at Russo Park with their third straight victory.
Up next, Louisiana travels to Round Rock, Texas to compete in the Round Rock Classic. They start with a game against No. 4 Stanford on Friday, Feb. 25 at 12:00 p.m.