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Baseball: Gisclair unsung hero in victory

Junior’s two-run blast provides needed spark

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Lost in the Friday heroics of UL pitcher Matt Pilgreen and Xavier Alexander’s game-winning hit was the four-hit performance of Nolan Gisclair in the Cajuns’ 5-4 NCAA Regional victory over Ohio State.

The junior from Archbishop Shaw and Delgado Community College in New Orleans had a fourth-inning two-run homer, his 12th of the season, to the deepest part of Olsen Field. His homer bounced off the top of the center-field wall before hopping over to kick off a three-run Cajun rally.

"Give credit for that one to Hawk (Scott Hawkins)," Gisclair said. "He had like a nine-pitch walk in front of me and saw a lot of off-speed stuff. Having him battle like that let me get a pitch down the middle."

Gisclair had four-hit outings against Illinois, another Big 10 Conference team, and Florida International earlier in the season. He also extended what is now a 10-game hitting streak, during which he’s hit .559 (19-of-34).

"I didn’t think I was hitting it as hard today," Gisclair said. "They had a big guy throwing (6-foot-7 righthander Jake Hale) and the ball gets on you quicker."

PITCHING CHANGE: It wasn’t until late Thursday evening that the Cajun coaching staff found out about a change in Ohio State’s pitching plans for the Friday opener.

It had been expected that the Buckeyes would start junior ace Cory Luebke, the Big 10’s Pitcher of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player in the Big 10 Tournament. But the 6-foot-4 lefthander threw 14 2/3 innings in last week’s league tournament, and head coach Bob Todd chose to allow Luebke an extra day’s rest.

Luebke reportedly still had stiffness after throwing into the eighth inning in Sunday’s Big 10 title game.

UL’s Thursday practice preparations included student assistant coach Cody Martin throwing all of batting practice, giving a left-handed look to Cajun hitters.

"We had the mind-set to face the lefty," said Cajun coach Tony Robichaux. "But we got word to all the hitters yesterday evening. This late in the year, it’s not that big a deal. And their guy (Hale) did a good job."

SCARY MOMENT: During the Cajuns’ fourth-inning rally, sophomore third baseman Matt Hicks was hit by a Hale fast ball on the side of the helmet and immediately went down clutching the side of his head.

The thud against the helmet was audible throughout the Olsen Field grandstand area. Hicks, though, got up after a couple of minutes and remained in the game. He did have a knot on his left temple after the game.

"We think he’s OK," Robichaux said. "The trainers will watch him pretty close, but it looks like he’s all right."

IN THE BELT: The Sun Belt Conference went 2-1 in Friday’s first round of regional play, with one of the wins standing as the day’s biggest upset. Fourth-seeded New Orleans rallied with three runs in the top of the ninth inning to take a 7-6 victory over top-seeded Wichita State in the Wichita Regional.

New Orleans had claimed the Sun Belt’s automatic berth by winning the league tournament title last Saturday. The Privateers led most of the way before the host Shockers put up two runs in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead.

Troy, which claimed a surprising spot in the field when the bracket was announced Monday, was steamrolled 14-1 by Southern Mississippi in the opening game of the Oxford Regional.

Saturday, UNO led most of the way before Wichita State rallied for a 6-4 victory in the Wichita Regional.

UNO faces Arizona in the winners’ bracket game in Wichita today, while Troy meets Sam Houston State in an elimination game.

LAGNIAPPE: UL left fielder Jefferies Tatford was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning – the only batter that first OSU reliever Josh Edgin faced. It was Tatford’s 47th plunking of his career, far and away a school record (the old mark was 33), and his 16th this year. He now has three of the top five single-season HBP totals in school history with 17 last year and 15 in his sophomore season … UL’s 13-hit attack Friday was the Cajuns’ 10th double-digit hit total in their last 12 games. UL has had at least nine hits in each of its last 14 games … Attendance at UL’s afternoon game was 2,861, while the A&M-LeMoyne night contest drew 5,267 for a first-day total of 8,128.