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Baseball: Cajuns ‘defined their season’

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 7, 2015



UL Ragin’ Cajuns express dejection following their 6-3 loss to the LSU Tigers.(Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser)


They won a second straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament title, made it to a third straight NCAA Regional and played in a second straight NCAA Super Regional as well.

That in mind, UL coach Tony Robichaux wasn’t about to let what happened Sunday night – a 6-3 loss to No. 1-ranked LSU at the Baton Rouge Super Regional, ending the Ragin’ Cajuns’ season two wins shy of a College World Series appearance one year after it lost to Ole Miss and came up one win short – spoil all that got them getting here.

"So, I’m proud of these guys," Robichaux said. "They fought all the way through this.

"We came into one of the toughest places in the country to play with two true freshman starting pitchers (Wyatt Marks, who pitched Game 1 of the best-of-three, and Gunner Leger), and really pitched (without) a three-run inning except for just one inning.

"But that’s not going to take away any respect I have for these guys," he added. "They did not let their season define them. They defined their season."

It was a season that ended only No 16-ranked UL, making what was to some a surprise Super Regional appearance, and LSU went at it for six scoreless innings at Alex Box Stadium.

LSU catcher Kade Scivicque’s solo home run to left off Leger snapped a 0-0 tie with one out in the top of the seventh, and the Tigers broke a still tight one open with a four-run eighth inning.

Tigers All-American shortstop Alex Bregman’s two-RBI single – a shot up the middle, with runners on second and third and first base open at the time – made it 3-0 with two outs in the eighth.

Bregman, hitless in the NCAA Tournament until then, drove in pinch-runner Chris Sciambra, whose solo homer in the bottom of the ninth beat UL 4-3 in Game 1 on Saturday night, and Mark Laird, who reached on a one-out error.

"(Leger) made a good pitch," Robichaux said, "and (Bregman) did what a great player does."

Robichaux opted against intentionally walking Bregman and pitching instead to Scivicque.

"We kicked it around," Robichaux said. "We knew we had first base open. We felt we were going to go changeup down. … We wanted to try to pitch to him there if we could, instead of intentionally walking him. Sometimes intentionally walking and loading the bases can spook pitchers at this level.

"I just looked at it," he added, "and saw what Gunner (Leger) had done with him (three balls-in-the-air outs) the whole game and felt he was my guy. He had brought me to this point, and we were going with it. And he (Bregman) didn’t hit a ball off the wall or out of the ballpark; he hit a two-hopper back through the middle."

Leger exited after Bregman’s hit, and Connor Hale followed two batters later with a two-run triple to right off of Cajuns closer Dylan Moore, making it 5-1.

"I felt fine," Leger said of the eighth. "I felt normal. My job was to get us to the next day, and … just got to make better pitches.

Moore was quickly replaced by Greg Milhorn, and Laird’s RBI-single off the senior in the ninth made it 6-1.

UL couldn’t get much going after Scivicque’s homer, going down in order in the seventh on two strikeouts and a flyball.

The Cajuns did get a run in the eighth, when Dylan Butler doubled and later scored on Kyle Clement’s fielder’s choice.

But UL left two stranded as LSU reliever Zac Person got Tyler Girouard to ground out.

The Cajuns got two more in the bottom of the ninth, when Evan Powell singled and later scored on pinch-hitter Kennon Fontenot’s triple off the wall in right, and, after LSU brought in closer Parker Bugg, Fontenot scored on Butler’s sac fly to deep right.

But Bugg got Trahan to pop up to first to end it, sending the 53-10 Tigers to their 17th College World Series and denying the 42-23 Cajuns a CWS appearance for the third time in four Super Regionals since 1999.

"It’s so hard," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said of UL, "because you hopes of going to Omaha, and we’ve been there before. … It was remarkable how they (The Cajuns) held it together and how great they played down the stretch."

Leger and LSU starter Jared Poche were locked into a duel early.

Leger hit one batter in the first but got out with no damage, retired the side in order on three swinging strikeouts in the second and gave up a single but was the beneficiary of a 4-6-3 double-play ball in the third.

Back-to-back diving catches by Clement in centerfield – one robbing Jake Fraley, who doubled and homered in Game 1, and the other robbing Bregman – helped Leger get through the fourth with the Tigers going three up, three down.

"I just wanted to leave it all out there on the field, in case this outcome happened," Clement said.

The fifth was a four-pitch inning for Leger, and LSU managed only a Jared Foster single in the sixth.

Poche, meanwhile, gave up a leadoff single to Trahan, who snapped an 0-for-14 skid in the process, and made it scoreless through seven.

He also was the double-play beneficiary with two Cajuns on to end the fourth, retired the side in order in the fifth and got help with another big double play for LSU in the sixth when Girouard lined out.

"We knew he was gonna be tough," Robichaux said of Poche, who allowed just five hits and one run and struck out seven over his 7.2 innings, "and he was."