home sitesearch sitemap contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Baseball: Cajuns win Sun Belt title

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 24, 2015


ROY, Alabama – It took battling back through the loser’s bracket to do it.

But the UL baseball team managed to cap a week of atonement by beating No. 1 seeded South Alabama 5-1 in 12 innings in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at Riddle-Pace Field on Sunday, doing it behind Stefan Trosclair’s dramatic grand slam in the top of the 12th to earn its third straight NCAA Regional bid.

Trosclair’s shot over the 30-foot scoreboard in right-center ended a five day-stretch in which he bounced back from a critical opening-game, ninth-inning error.

But he was hardly alone in making amends.

Starting pitcher Wyatt Marks recorded a key Saturday win after failing to get out of the first inning Thursday. Starter Gunner Leger went 8.0 innings Sunday after not making it to the sixth on Wednesday. Third baseman Brenn Conrad erased potentially costly error Sunday by initiating a double play.

And outfielder Kyle Clement – who had a two-run error in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s opening loss to Texas State – fittingly finished the tourney with a catch in centerfield.

Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux – whose 39-21 club, now the reigning two-time Sun Belt tourney champ, learns which Regional it will go to Monday morning – was more impressed with how third-seeded UL responded than by its actual victories.

"I went down there after we lost that first game and said, ‘We’ve got a chance to show people who we are,’ " Robichaux said. "And they went out and showed people who they are."

Trosclair’s grand slam off of reliever Ben Taylor came after Joe Robbins singled and moved to second on Dylan Butler’s sac bunt, Sun Belt Player of the Year Blake Trahan was intentionally walked, Conrad hit into a fielder’s choice to advance the runners and Clement was intentionally walked to load the bases.

"I was just gonna step up to the plate and try to get a good swing on the ball," said Trosclair, who entered the game with 15 home runs on the season and two in the tourney.

"South Al played a great game," added Trosclair, who got good leverage on a fastball, "and I knew I was gonna get a good pitch to hit, and tried to … get a run in. Tried to do my job."

Did he ever.

So did Leger, who turned things over to Milhorn (4-1) – another atonement story after getting pulled early from last year’s Sun Belt tourney championship game.

"He never broke," Robichaux said of Leger, "and he kept us where we needed to be."

Trosclair’s slam broke a 1-1 tie that lasted from the fourth inning until the 11th, and Milhorn retired the side in order in the bottom of the 12, ending it by getting No. 9 hitter Ryan Raspino to fly out to Clement.

"I thought that was fitting," Robichaux said.

Tied 1-1 in the 10th, UL had a chance to go up with runners on second and third – but Conrad lined out to left, and pinch-runner Jam Williams was thrown out at the plate 7-2.

UL third-base coach Jeremy Talbot was thrown out arguing the call, but a replay showed Williams was out and he may have left third early anyway.

With a 2-6-3 double play and a groundout, UL and South Alabama (37-20) went to the 11th still tied at 1 and Trosclair all but ended it in the top of the 12th.

Leger, meanwhile, got UL headed in the right direction by giving up only a run in the third.

"They were a good ballclub," Leger said. "They swing the bats.

"They play the game right – small ball, they fight, they don’t really chase much – and they’ve got good arms, so I knew I had to kind of control the game a little bit and get deep into it and let Milhorn come in and close it out."

Kevin Hill – the Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year, and working on just two days rest – and Taylor each went 6.0 innings for South Alabama.

Hill, who had a 10-0 record coming in, threw 95 pitches despite throwing 112 on Thursday, and Taylor (6-3) entered to retire the side in order in the seventh and the ninth.

Leger also retired the side in order in the seventh, and made it through a scoreless fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth on just 32 total pitches – 7, 13, 7 and 5.

On his 101st pitch, in the eighth, Leger got Adam Ballew to line out to Greg Davis at first for a double play.

With the game still tied 1-1 in the ninth, Leger finally exited and Milhorn entered in the ninth.

A UL starter until missing a month with a groin injury, he pitched a game-saving 4.2 relief innings on Thursday against Troy.

The senior allowed a leadoff single, but got the game to extra innings with a shallow fly-ball out, a fielder’s choice and a groundout.

Clement jumped on Hill early, doubling to the right-field wall in the first. Trosclair followed with a single up the middle, putting UL up 1-0.

South Alabama loaded the bases in the second on a bloop single, a throwing error by Conrad and a walk, but Conrad answered with a double play as he fielded a grounder, touched the base at third and made the throw to first.

Ben Gann tied it for the Jaguars in the third with an RBI double that dropped just inside the line in right, but that would prove not nearly enough even as UL and South Alabama went toe-to-toe for eight scoreless innings until the 12th.

"I think we’re the two best teams in the conference this year," said Robichaux, whose Cajuns split 2-2 with USA this season, "and it played out thataway."