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Baseball: Offensive explosion – UL rebounds from loss to rout Jackson State 15-1

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 2, 2013

BATON ROUGE — All it took was a meeting of the masters with the bats.

No coaches involved.

And once they gathered, the Ragin’ Cajuns bounced back from Friday night’s first-round loss to Sam Houston State with a 15-1 win Saturday over Jackson State in an NCAA baseball Baton Rouge Regional elimination game played before 1,909 at LSU’s Alex Box Stadium.

UL pounded out 19 hits to advance to another elimination game in the four-team, double-elimination Regional – this one scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, against the loser of Saturday night’s winner’s-bracket game between Sam Houston State and No. 4 national seed LSU.

Cajuns starter Austin Robichaux (9-2) hit four and allowed nine hits but struck out eight and permitted just the one run in eight complete innings.

Third-baseman Tyler Girouard went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored, including a key two-RBI double in the fifth inning, for No. 4 Regional seed UL, which improved to 42-19.

“He (son Austin Robichaux) made some really good pitches, some really nice plays, to hold us until Shugg (Girouard) pulled the team up,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said.

“I thought Austin set a very good tempo for us. What, normally, good pitchers do is they give you a chance to settle in and give you time. He (gave) our hitters time.”

It was time much-needed by a club that went into the Regional leading the nation in home runs with 72 and leading it in slugging percentage, especially after UL managed only four hits in Friday’s 4-2 loss to SHSU.

SWAC Tournament-champ Jackson State (34-22) took the early lead in the bottom of the third, when Stephen Curtis’ RBI-single to left pushed across Gary Thomas.

But UL broke things open in the top of the fifth, going up with four runs on five hits and an error.

The Cajuns also got four runs in the eighth and six in the ninth.

“That team came out loud. … So you cannot take anything away from them,” Jackson State coach Omar Johnson said. “They are the best hitting team in the country stat-wise. They came out and performed like that.”

They did, especially after Robichaux got them through the first few innings fairly unscathed.

Ryan Leonards opened the fifth with a single and Dex Kjerstad doubled, putting Cajun runners on second and third.

Blake Trahan’s hard-hit single to first base scored Leonards, tying the game at 1-1.

Girouard followed with the two-RBI double, and before the half-inning was done he scored on Chase Compton’s single.

“That inning we kind of got the hitters together and had a little meeting to get us going,” said Girouard, a sophomore who walked on from Teurlings Catholic High. “(Hitting) Coach (Matt) Deggs tried talking to us the inning before, (but) it kind of helps when one of the players kind of pulls guys together and gets them going.”

“Shugg’s kind of our leader. He’s kind of our emotional guy. He’s been our energy all year, all fall leading into this season, and I think he said a mouthful,” Robichaux added.

“Him having a great day is exactly what I think caused us to win.”

UL tacked on another run in the seventh, making it 5-1 when Girouard singled, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error by the Jackson State catcher and scored on Michael Strentz’s single down the left-field line.

Jace Conrad’s bases-clearing triple put the Cajuns up 8-1 in the top of the eighth, and Conrad scored himself on Girouard’s sacrifice fly as UL took a 9-1 lead.

After Compton tripled off the wall to lead off the ninth, pinch-hitter Logan Preston doubled to score Compton, Ryan Leonards singled in Preston, Kjerstad singled in Nick Thurman, Leonards scored on Conrad’s sacrifice fly, pinch-hitter Sam Carriere tripled in Leonards and Strentz singled in Carrriere to make it 15-1 UL.

“The last two innings we really came together,” Girouard said, “and you kind of saw what we’ve kind of been doing all year. That’s just gonna help us with confidence.”

Matt Plitt retired the side in order to close things for the Cajuns.

But Austin Robichaux did the hardest part in the afternoon sun.

“I was just going into the game trying to give my team the best chance to win and move on – not face elimination,” he said. “It was a hot one, but I had to grind through it.

“There were a couple innings they started big rallies. It kind of shook me up a little bit. And I was able to get the ball on the ground and put it in my infield’s hands, and they took care of it.”

UL turned double plays in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, including a 2-5-3 initiated by catcher Thurman and another when Robichaux caught a line-drive comebacker to the mound and turned to double up the runner at the second.

It was Cajun bats, though, that made the biggest difference.

“Coach Deggs after the game kind of joked around,” Girouard said, “and said, ‘We’re here. We showed up a little late.’

“We did a poor job the first game … (of) just playing our game. Didn’t really hit the ball well, (didn’t) get runners on and cash in in the big spots. (Saturday) I think we did a good job of getting back on top of the baseball, inside the baseball, and just putting ourselves in position to get the big hit.”