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Baseball: UL grabs Sun Belt title

Baseball: UL grabs Sun Belt title

Baseball: UL grabs Sun Belt title

School records set in lopsided 28-3 victory

Living up to expectations can be difficult. But not, apparently, if you’re a part of UL’s baseball team.

The Ragin’ Cajuns entered Saturday needing one win to lock up the Sun Belt conference regular-season title, and promptly put up a performance for the ages.

Never before had a Cajun baseball team produce offensively as this year’s squad did on Saturday, rolling past Arkansas-Little Rock 28-3 in a record-setting effort that set off the much-awaited dog-pile in the middle of the Moore Field infield.

"This means a lot," said Cajun catcher Jonathan Lucroy after unpiling from the human mass that developed once relief pitcher Andrew Laughter forced a game-ending fly ball from UALR cleanup hitter Ryan Gotcher. "We were supposed to get it done today, and we knew we had to take advantage when we had the opportunity."

Much-anticipated win


This was UL’s second time to win the title in three years, and its first time to win it at home since 1992.

"When you have the chance to win it, you’ve got to win it," said designated hitter Scott Hawkins, sporting a brand-new Sun Belt championship T-shirt. "You may not get a lot more chances."

The Cajuns (37-13, 20-6) actually had four more chances to claim their second regular-season title in three seasons, since a win in any of UL’s last five league games would have been enough. But the Cajun players were hoping to lock things down before today’s 1 p.m. series finale and before next weekend’s regular-season-ending three-game set at New Orleans.

"Winning it at home was good for this team and good for our fans," said a dripping-wet Cajun coach Tony Robichaux after a celebratory cooler-dunking from his players. "It’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of this here, so it’s special.

"Give a lot of credit to our team … I’ve enjoyed watching them come out and take care of business, and showing their maturity."

That maturity – and some hot bats – came to the fore early when UL scored four unearned runs in the second inning and added six more in the third off UALR starter Ashur Tolliver (5-5). The Trojans (20-28, 8-17) got three runs on one swing of the bat in the fourth inning on Matt King’s bases-clearing double, but were silenced by Cajun hurlers Hunter Moody and Andrew Laughter the rest of the way.

"We wanted to put pressure early," said Hawkins, who tied a UL school record by scoring five times. "And we’ve got great pitchers that get the job done out there."

Moody (7-3) gave up only six hits and fanned eight while walking none in six innings, and Laughter had three shutout innings with three more strikeouts for his second save in as many Saturdays.

"The hitters did an awesome job," said Moody. "Once we started having those long innings you had to work hard at staying focused, but that’s a good problem to have."

Moody and Laughter notwithstanding, Saturday’s win was all about the guys at the plate. The 28 runs set a school record for single-game scoring, snapping the mark of 26 reached three other times. UL’s 25 runs batted in also broke a 17-year-old school mark.

Five different Cajuns had three or more hits. Every starter had at least one hit and seven of the nine had multiple hits. UL batted around four times in the game off a total of seven different UALR pitchers, and scored six runs in an inning three different times.

This was off a Trojan team that had swept Troy one weekend earlier, allowing Troy’s offensive attack to score only three runs in three games.

"We knew they were coming in off some good wins," Lucroy said. "We knew we’d have to put up as many runs as we could and we had to get into their pen."

Lucroy accounted for two home runs in a four-hit day, while Hawkins had a three-run homer in the sixth among his three hits. Nolan Gisclair, struggling at the plate for much of the last three weeks, broke out with a pinch-hit grand-slam homer in the eighth to provide the final four runs.

Josh Logan had three hits and five RBI including a two-run triple in the sixth, Matt Hicks’ two-run double in the third was part of a three-hit day that included four RBI, and Devon Bourque chipped in with three hits.

"We swung it well today," Hawkins said. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many extra-base hits. I know I’ve never seen that many runs."

Neither had the Cajun fans, who got their wish and celebrated a conference title.

"I’m proud of the way this team took care of things," Robichaux said. "We had a motto after last year that close doesn’t count, and they didn’t want to just come close again."

Brad Kemp/bkemp@theadvertiser.com

UL celebrates defeating University of Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday at Tigue Moore Field 28-3 to win the regular-season conference title.

Athletic Network Footnote: To view pictures of Baseball Alumni Weekend and all of the on-the-field and off-the-field activity, click on the RaginCajuns.com logo on the right of the Athletic Network News Box, then Baseball in the Teams Drop-Down menu in the upper left, then photos, then the 05/12 and 05/11 links.  Over 200 images are included in the two links and more to be added for Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.