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Baseball: UL loses Sun Belt baseball championship in 16-8 rout

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 26. 2013

UL’s quest for its first Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament title since 1998 ended today with a 16-8 lightning-delayed loss to Florida Atlantic in the championship game of the eight-team, five-day tourney at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.

The defeat ended a seven-game win streak for the third-seeded Ragin’ Cajuns, who fell to 41-18 but remain in line for a fully expected NCAA Regional bid when invites go out on Monday morning’s ESPNU-televised selection show.


UL plans to make its first Regional appearance since 2010.


FAU, making its first and last appearance in the SBC title game, improved to 39-20 and secured an automatic NCAA Regional bid.


It was a season-best 11th straight win for the fourth-seeded Owls, who are moving to Conference USA after this season.


UL was done in during the top of the second, a half-inning in which FAU got nine runs on seven hits and two Cajun errors.


The Cajuns went through four pitchers in the second – starter Kody Smith, who exited without recording an out in the inning; reliever Cord Cockrell, who gave up four hits and was on the hook for four runs; reliever Ben Frith, who allowed two hits and was tagged with three runs; and reliever Ben Carter.


That put the Owls up 11-1.


FAU jumped to an early 2-0 lead when Mark Nelson tripled, Tyler Rocklein doubled down the left-field line to score Nelson and Brendon Sanger singled in Rocklein in the top of the first.


UL did get one back in the bottom of the first, when Dex Kjerstad doubled up the middle, stole third and came across on Seth Harrison’s E5 RBI sacrifice bunt.


But FAU tacked on two more in the top of the third to take a 13-1 lead, and the Cajuns – though they’re capable of big innings – seemed all but done then.


UL did get a solo home run from Kjerstad in the bottom of the third (his 12th homer of the season), two more in the fourth, another two in the seventh and a solo home run from Chase Compton in the eighth.


But with another run in the top of the fourth and two more in the top of the seventh, FAU had a 16-7 lead when lightning struck shortly before 4 p.m. – prompting an automatic delay.


Kjerstad’s home run was the 71st and Compton’s the 72nd of the season for the Cajuns, who went into the tourney leading in the nation in homers with 66.


After a delay of one hour and 54 minutes, UL did get one run when Michael Strentz drove in Caleb Adams.


But Compton went down swinging to end things, leaving the Cajuns only to wonder in what Regional – Baton Rouge is a possibility – they will play.


Right-fielder Kjerstad, first-/second-baseman Conrad and UL pitchers Austin Robichaux and Ryan Wilson all were named to the All-Sun Belt Tournament team.