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Baseball: Cajuns cruisin’ – Robichaux, Adams lift UL to 9-2 win over Jaguars

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 25, 2013

One strong arm. Two more homers.

Add them together, and the result was a 9-2 win for the UL baseball team over South Alabama on Friday in a Sun Belt Conference Tournament winner’s-bracket game.

Austin Robichaux threw a complete-game four-hitter, left-fielder Dex Kjertsad delivered a leadoff home in the first inning and designated hitter Caleb Adams blasted a three-run over the wall in left in the third to lift UL.

The homer for Adams, who now has a team-leading 50 RBIs, was his team-high 14th of the season for a Cajun club that went into the tourney leading the nation in home runs and now has 69.

“When you give a guy like Austin that type of run support,” said Adams, who was 3-for-5 at the plate, “it’s … gonna be good for you.”

And it was.

A well-hydrated Robichaux, UL’s usual Friday-night starter, struck out five, walked none and threw just 102 pitches while improving to 8-2 on a hot-and-humid afternoon.

“He (Austin Robichaux) got lead-off guys out all throughout the ball game, stayed very minimal (with) three ball counts and just threw some quality change-ups in fastball counts,” Ragin’ Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said of his son, a sophomore. “That’s just a phenomenal job – not just the way he pitched, but him saving the bullpen in this heat.

“I told him earlier, ‘You’ve got a full bullpen; we can left-right this thing. With this heat, don’t try to save anything. Just empty the tank,’ ” Robichaux added. “And you can tell he’s my kid. He didn’t listen.”

Starter Matt Bell (6-1) took his first loss of the season for No. 1 seed South Alabama, which fell to 41-17.

UL improved to 40-17 and remains undefeated with two wins in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.

The Cajuns can now win the tourney by winning two straight games.

At 12:30 today, UL will face the winner of Friday night’s late game between South Alabama and No. 6 seed Florida International. If they win that one, the Cajuns will advance straight to Sunday’s 1 p.m. title game; if not, they’ll play an elimination game at 7:30 tonight.

With UL leading 5-1 in Friday’s game, a double by Kjerstad scored Chase Compton and set off a four-run eighth full of insurance runs for the Cajuns.

Jace Conrad – whose three-run, walk-off homer beat Florida International in a first-round game Wednesday night – added a hard-hit single to right that scored Kjerstad and Blake Trahan and made it 8-1.

UL’s fourth run of the inning came when Conrad crossed as pinch-hitter Sam Carriere reached on an error.

South Alabama did get one in the top of the ninth with Dustin Dalken’s two-out RBI single, but – with four ultimately unneeded relievers warming up in the UL pen – Robichaux ended things by getting Robby Campbell to pop out to first-baseman Compton in foul territory.

South Alabama jumped to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, when lead-off hitter Jeff DeBlieux sent a triple over the head of Seth Harrison and to the wall in centerfield. Bud Collura followed with a sacrifice fly to center to easily scored DeBlieux.

But Robichaux quickly settled down after that, after trading the run for an out.

“Once I got used to (the heat of the day),” he said, “I went with the flow.”

Kjerstad answered South Alabama’s first run with a solo shot to centerfield – the fourth time this season he’s led off UL’s first with a home run.

Harrison then reached on a walk, advanced to third on Girouard’s bloop single and made it 2-1 by scoring on a steal of home when Girouard was thrown out trying to go to second.

Two innings later, Conrad was hit by a pitch and Girouard walked, chasing Bell. Jaime Dennis entered in relief, and the first batter he faced – Adams – belted the sidearm delivery to left to put the Cajuns up 5-1.

“What happens with sidearm guys (is) as soon as they drop on right-handers, they have a tendency to open up your front side,” Robichaux said. “(Adams) just stayed closed and was able to get into the ball. That’s about the only way we could hit this guy really hard.”

“He (Dennis) pitched against us (earlier this month) … and (hitting) Coach (Matt) Deggs reminded me, ‘Hey, this was the guy you were all over two weeks ago,’ ” added Adams, who does not typically hit sidearm-pitchers well. “So I got in there and just tried to stay inside the ball. That’s the key to sidearm guys, with the ball falling back into you – just stay inside it, sit back and let it get to you.”

LAGNIAPPE: The Cajuns have now won six straight, tying their season-best streak, and are now 15-5 in their last 20 games. … Tony Robichaux said he wasn’t sure who would start today’s 12:30 game. … After going 23-30 last season, the Cajuns – who’ve now reached one of their preseason goals of winning at least 40 – are now one win away from tying the biggest season-to-season turnaround in Robichaux’s 19 years as coach of the Cajuns. … Friday’s 12:30 game was to have been played Thursday night, but it was postponed due to lightning.