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Baseball: Moody pitches gem for Cajuns

Dan McDonald

The University of Louisiana baseball squad got solid pitching and solid defense Friday night. Florida International only got solid pitching, and because of that the Ragin’ Cajuns have now won seven straight Sun Belt Conference games.
The host FIU squad committed five errors, two each in the Cajuns’ two multiple-run innings, and the visitors took advantage in a 6-1 victory at FIU’s University Park in Miami.

“When you pitch and play defense, you’ve always got a chance to win,” said Cajun coach Tony Robichaux. “They (FIU) made some critical errors down the stretch.”

The Cajuns (25-13, 8-2) scored twice in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and added three insurance runs in the top of the ninth to give starting pitcher Hunter Moody all the support he needed.
Moody (7-2) pitched into the ninth inning, scattering eight hits and striking out six. The only run he allowed came on FIU third baseman Nick Cadena’s leadoff homer in the second inning that gave the Golden Panthers (26-16, 7-6) an early 1-0 lead.

Moody’s gem was almost matched by FIU’s Walker Whitley (7-5), whose complete-game effort also included six strikeouts and nine singles allowed. But FIU’s defense let him down at two crucial times.

In UL’s half of the sixth, Jefferies Tatford was hit by a pitch and Alex Preciado reached base when his hit-and-run swing nailed FIU catcher Luis Bautista’s mitt. The catcher’s interference put runners at first and second and also put Bautista out of the game with an undetermined hand injury.

Jonathan Lucroy followed with a ground ball to first base, but FIU’s Michael Lopez threw wildly to second base in an attempted force. That left the bases loaded, and Josh Landry followed with a single between shortstop and third that scored Tatford and Preciado for a 3-1 lead.

In the ninth, UL got three runs without a ball leaving the infield when John McCarthy had a leadoff bunt single and Devon Bourque’s sacrifice attempt was thrown away. McCarthy then scored on a passed ball and Devery Van De Keere’s push bunt single left runners at the corners.

Preciado followed with another bunt and Bourque was tagged out in a rundown between third and home, but a throw to try to catch Preciado off first rolled all the way to the wall and both runners scored for the five-run lead.

“He (Whitley) did a good job,” Robichaux said. “They collapsed some at the end defensively and we took advantage.”

UL took its first win over FIU in Miami since 2002, while the Golden Panthers lost for only the third time at home this season and for the first time since March 14. The Cajuns, remaining one game out of first place in the Sun Belt after Troy’s 10-7 win over Arkansas State on Friday, square off with FIU in the middle game of the series at noon (CDT) today with UL’s Buddy Glass (5-1) matching up with FIU’s Chris Siebenaler (3-5).

Moody, whose ERA went down to 1.49 with the win, stranded Panther runners at third base in the second and third innings included a bases-loaded situation in the third. FIU also loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth when Moody gave up a walk and a single and reliever Brandt Sanders walked another, but Chad Beck came on to strike out Danny Marquez and Cadena for his fourth save.

UL got its first run in the fifth when Landry singled and stole second and scored on Jameson Parker’s bouncing single up the middle. The Cajuns left seven runners stranded through the first six innings.

“We’ve got to get runs in critical situations,” Robichaux said. “I hope I can go the rest of the year with Hunter giving up one run, but that’s not realistic. We left too many runners stranded, so tomorrow we have to take care of that.”

Originally published April 22, 2006