Baseball: Cajuns Drop Close One to Bearkats in Baton Rouge Regional Opener
BATON ROUGE – A two-run double by Luke Plucheck in the seventh inning broke a 2-2 tie and lifted Sam Houston State past the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team by a score of 4-2 in the opening round of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional here Friday evening at Alex Box Stadium/Skip Bertman Field.
The loss sends the Cajuns (41-19) into the losers bracket of the four-team, double-elimination regional tournament, where they will face Jackson State (34-21) Saturday at 2 p.m. The winner of that game will face the loser of the LSU/SHSU game on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Dex Kjerstad finished 2-for-5 collecting his 31st multiple-hit game of the season. He also extended his hitting streak to 14 games, tying Tyler Girouard and Ryan Leonards for the team-high streak.
Kendall Mayer tossed 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief after SHSU (38-20) grabbed the lead in the seventh inning to keep the Cajuns within striking distance.
Kjerstad nearly tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning sending a towering fly ball to left field that was caught on the warning track by Plucheck to preserve the lead.
The contest marked the start of the Cajuns 13th appearance in the NCAA Baseball Championship and first appearance since the 2010 Austin Regional.
The Cajuns two runs scored marked the fewest since scoring two on April 13 at UALR, doing so on a season-tying low four hits. It was the second time this season the Cajuns have been held to four hits, last being at Houston on April 30.
"First of all, I thought both of their pitchers threw really well,” head coach Tony Robichaux said. “We just couldn’t really get on top of the ball throughout the night.
“We kept the game as close as we could,” Robichaux added. “We could have trimmed at least one more run off of there with the dropped fly ball in centerfield. They got a critical hit at a critical time of the game. You have to give them credit.”
Plucheck led off the second inning with a solo home run to open the game’s scoring. A pair of two-out walks followed by an error allowed another run to score and make it 2-0 in favor of the Bearkats.
The Cajuns got one run back in the third, plating their first run before their first hit, and making it 2-1. Jace Conrad was hit by the pitch to lead off the inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch and then was advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Seth Harrison. Tyler Girouard picked up his 38th RBI in the next at-bat, driving in Conrad with a groundout to first.
The Bearkats opened the sixth with back-to-back singles, bringing a close to Cajuns’ starting pitcher Ryan Wilson’s night. Wilson tossed five innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on five hits and three walks, while fanning two batters.
Matt Hicks got the call from the bullpen, coming into the game with runners on first and second and no outs. Hicks assisted on the force out to third on a bunt, before getting the next batter to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
In the Cajun’s half of the sixth a Blake Trahan RBI single up the middle evened the score at 2-2. The hit scored Girouard from third, who reached base after getting hit by a pitch, advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt from Leonards, and took third on a Strentz single.
The game wasn’t tied for long, with the Bearkats pushing two runs across in the top of the seventh off Plucheck’s double. Mayer came out of the pen and struck out the first batter he faced to get out of the inning.
Mayer would finish the game for the Cajuns, allowing just one hit, a double, and picked up two strikeouts.
“We never let the game get away,” Robichaux said. “It was a good baseball game. I just thought they got the critical hit at the critical time of the game. We have to work to survive and advance now.
The Cajuns had a loud ninth inning at the plate, but failed to get a run. Compton was hit by a pitch with one out before Kjerstad was just feet short of tying the game with a flyout to the left field wall.
Hicks wound up with the loss for the Cajuns and falls to 3-2 on the season.
“We will probably go with Austin [Robichaux] tomorrow,” Robichaux said. “We will come out and get after it and get ourselves back in this thing. This was not going to be an easy regional anyway. You are playing one of the better teams in the country in one of the toughest venues in the country.”
BASES NOTED: Louisiana had a two-game win streak in NCAA Regional round openers snapped with the 4-2 defeat…The Cajuns had won opening round games in 2007 at College Station and 2010 in Austin in the previous two appearances… Louisiana had scored five-plus runs each of the previous 13 games in May and entered the Baton Rouge Regional averaging 9.9 runs per game during the month…Dex Kjerstad has produced multiple hits in eight of the past nine contests, a streak that dates back to second game of South Alabama doubleheader on May 12…Kjerstad increased his season hits total to 96 moving him within five hits of tying the single-season record 101 set by Nathan Nelson in 2000…Seth Harrison, the team leader with nine bunt singles, picked up his ninth sacrifice bunt in the third inning moving him into a tie with Blake Trahan for team lead…Later in the game, Ryan Leonards picked up his ninth sacrifice bunt to move into a three-way tie with Trahan and Harrison… Matt Hicks made is team-leading 29th appearance taking over for Ryan Wilson in the sixth inning…Hicks is now one appearance shy of becoming the first Cajun pitcher with 30 appearances since Danny Farquhar (30) in 2007…The relief appearance by Matt Hicks was the 70th of his career and he is now one appearance from moving into the Top 5 on the career charts for games pitched in school history.
Sam Houston State 4, Louisiana 2 (May 31, 2013 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Sam Houston State… 020 000 200 – 4 9 1 (38-20)
Louisiana……….. 001 001 000 – 2 4 1 (41-19)
Pitchers: Sam Houston State – Dickson, Cody; Scott, Alan (6). Louisiana – Wilson, Ryan; Hicks, Matt (6); Mayer, Kendall (7)
Win-Scott, Alan (2-0) Loss-Hicks, Matt (3-2) T-2:57 A-3851
HR SHSU – Plucheck, Luke (9)
Weather: 83, partly cldy, SSE @ 11 MPH
Wilson, R faced 2 batters in the 6th
— Ragin’ Cajuns —