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Baseball: Late eruption – Cajuns explode for 14 runs late to blow out Jags

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, March 27, 2014

Click here for photo gallery of UL vs. Southern game.

For six-and-a-half innings, it was a game.

UL’s 13-win streak and its No. 1 national ranking from Collegiate Baseball both seemed to be in jeopardy.

Then catcher Michael Strentz dropped a bloop double to right, right fielder Dylan Butler sent an inside fastball skyrocketing to left and the floodgates opened.

The Ragin’ Cajuns rolled to a 17-3 win Wednesday night over SWAC-member Southern, improving to 24-2 while winning for the 14th straight time behind shortstop Blake Trahan’s four hits, left fielder Caleb Adams’ four RBIs and the combined two-hit, scoreless relief pitching of Nick Zaunbrecher, Connor Toups, Martin Anderson, Matt Hicks, Riley Cooper and Reagan Bazar over 5.0 innings.

“I thought our guys did a good job of hanging in there,” said UL coach Tony Robichaux, whose Cajuns play host this weekend to Western Kentucky in a three-game Sun Belt Conference series that opens Friday night.

“We know baseball is a crazy game, and anything can happen at any time,” Strentz added. “But we know if we just stick with it we can bring teams down.”

Just like they have for two-and-a-half straight weeks now.

UL took a 1-0 lead when Jace Conrad scored on Chase Compton’s second-inning sacrifice fly to left, but Southern answered with three in the third off a Cajun starter Ben Carter.

Seth Harrison walked and later scored on Conrad’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, and UL tied it at 3-3 when Trahan singled, stole second and scored from there on Harrison’s line drive to left.

Then the Cajuns jumped on 4-13 Southern’s thinned-out late-game pitching, scoring seven in the seventh and – just for good measure – seven more in the eighth.

What really should have been measured, though, was the blast by No. 9 hitter Butler.

Strentz’s looper with the bases loaded scored Tyler Girouard and Adams to break the tie, and two batters later, Butler absolutely crushed a 1-1 James Fontenot offering.

“I heard alpha (code for inside pitch), so I got locked and loaded, and good thing I put a good swing on it,” Butler said. “That was definitely the best feeling I’ve ever had. No doubt about it.

“I think (my hands) were up until I got to first base. I was so excited. It felt too good.”

Strentz, meanwhile, was simply happy to get the big inning going any way he would.

“Right now,” he said, “I’ll take anything, because I’m struggling again.

“But in a game like that I was trying to hit the other way and use up opposite side of the field and not get crazy with it and pull everything, and he (Fontenot) threw me a ball in, so I tried to keep my hands in it.”

Before the seventh was done, Adams walked with the bases loaded to score one run and Leonards came across on a wild pitch for another.

UL’s similarly explosive eighth featured a three-run triple down the right-field line by Adams, who kept going to score himself on a throwing error from the outfield and make it 16-3.

LAGNIAPPE: UL’s 24-2 record marks its best 26-game start since 2000, when the Cajuns’ only College World Series team opened 29-2. … Adams extended his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 20 with a single in the seventh. … Conrad has reached in 16 straight games, including a team-high 10 consecutive games with a hit. … Trahan’s four hits tied his career high. … UL’s 14 consecutive wins – longest active streak in the country – are two shy of the most in a row in this season. South Carolina won 16 straight to open the season, then lost to Ole Miss in the first game of an SEC series that it won 2-1. … The Cajuns have 270 hits through 26 games this season – 100 of them for extra bases, including 30 homer runs, 12 triples and 58 doubles. That’s an average of 3.8 extra bases per game. … After facing WKU, UL closes a nine-game homestand Tuesday night vs. Tulane.