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Baseball: Witching-hour win – UL beats Princeton late in Regional

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 4, 2016

Starting pitcher Nick Lee on the mound as the University of Louisiana takes on Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Regional Tournament at Tigue Moore Field.(Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/THE ADVERTISER)

Click here for Scott Clause’s photo gallery of the Cajuns vs. Princeton NCAA Regionals Photo.


   WHAT: 64-team NCAA Tournament, first round; four-team Regional is double-elimination

   WHERE: M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field (3,755)

   TV/OTHER: No TV; Internet coverage on ESPN 3 with Brett Dolan (play-by-play) and Tom Holliday (commentary)


   Elimination game: No. 3 seed SAM HOUSTON STATE (41-21) vs. No. 4 seed PRINCETON (24-20)

   WHEN: 1 p.m. (central) Saturday

   Winner’s-bracket game: No. 1 seed UL (42-19) vs. No. 2 seed ARIZONA (39-20)

   WHEN: 7 p.m. (central) Saturday

   RADIO: KPEL 96.5 FM with Jay Walker

   PITCHING MATCHUP: UL LHP Gunner Leger (6-3, 2.08 ERA) vs. TBA

They went past midnight to do it.

But the No. 14 Ragin’ Cajuns were able to outlast Princeton late Friday night and early Saturday morning, getting two runs in the eighth inning for a 5-3 win over the Ivy League’s Tigers in UL’s opening game at the NCAA Lafayette Regional at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.

Tied 3-3, No. 1 Regional seed UL went up in the bottom of the eighth when Hunter Kasuls singled up the middle and advanced to second on a wild pitch before third baseman Joe Robbins followed with an RBI-triple to the wall in left-center.

Robbins said he got a hold of a curveball on the outer half.

"I didn’t expect to pull that as much as I did, honestly," he said. "But, yeah, I saw the outfield shift. They shifted me hard. I knew it was gonna be something on the outer half, so I kind of leaped over a little bit.

"Luckily it was a curveball that I could pull on, and put it in the gap."

The Cajuns added an insurance before the eighth was done, as Robbins scored from third on Kyle Clement’s foul-ball flyout.

Closer Dylan Moore pitched a scoreless ninth and put No. 4 seed Princeton down in order with a groundout and two strikeouts for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament-champion Cajuns, who improved to 42-19 with the win.

The victory sends UL into Saturday night’s 7 p.m. winner’s-bracket game against Arizona, weather permitting.

"At the end of the night," said UL coach Tony Robichaux, whose Cajuns are in their fourth straight Regional and have been to back-to-back Super Regionals, "we pitched, we played defense and we got timely hitting.

"That’s what we’ve been about for a long time," added Robichaux, whose players actually arrived at the ballpark, went home and returned because of a length weather delay. "So I’m proud of our guys, especially waiting all day and waiting all day. … Staying the course and being here at midnight, I’m proud of ’em."

Arizona won its opener Saturday night, beating Sam Houston State 7-3.

Princeton and SHSU now are scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Princeton jumped to a quick 1-0 lead over UL as Tigers No. 2 hitter Billy Arendt tripled with one out and scored on Danny Hoy’s sacrifice line-out to left field.

Tigers starter Chad Powers struck out the first three Cajun batters he faced in the first, but UL tied it in the bottom of the second inning with a two-out solo home run to right-center by Steven Sensley.

The homer was the sixth of the season by Sensley, UL’s right fielder.

"First of all," Robichaux said in his opening postgame remarks, "their kid (Powers, who went 7.1 innings) threw a great ballgame.

"We knew that he could locate. Tonight he was amped up early — his coach even told me that — and his velocity went up a little bit, so his variables got even bigger."

The Cajuns did finally get to him, though — eventually — when Robbins came through in the eight.

UL stranded a man (Alex Pinero) at second in the third and went down in order in the fourth, and Princeton stranded a man at first in the third and also went down in order in the fourth to send the two teams to the fifth still tied at 1-1.

Cajuns left fielder Kennon Fontenot broke the tie with a solo home run of his own — this one to right — with one out in the bottom of the fifth.

The homer was just the third of the season for Fontenot, who followed Sensley in the Cajun batting order.

Besides the two solo homers, Pinero was the only one of the Cajuns to make it to second base through the first six innings — and he did so only after a throwing error followed his single.

The Tigers, meanwhile, tied it in the top of the sixth, when with men on first and second and no outs on the board, Hoy scored Jesper Horsted with a single to right.

Hoy’s single chased Lee, who was replaced by reliever Eric Carter with men still on first and second.

"We were very fortunate that Nick Lee got us where he got us," Robichaux said of the righty who fanned four in 5.0 innings. "As a true freshman, I thought he did a great job for us.

"Then from there we came in with Eric (Carter). Eric did a great job of bridging the gap for us, and then there our hitters stayed right there, stayed the course. (And) we played great defense."

Carter struck out the first two Princeton batters he faced, but Joseph Flynn’s RBI single up the middle put the Tigers up 3-2.

Princeton later loaded the bases, but Carter escaped the jam by getting a line-drive out to short.

After UL went down in order in the bottom of the sixth, Princeton did the same in the top of the seventh — on three straight Carter strikeouts.

"At this point of the season, everybody’s selling out, everybody’s gonna fight, and so I knew they were gonna have a lot of fight in them," said Carter, who struck out five in his 3.0 innings.

"So I had to match their level of fight with my own, and so I feel like once I got in there I was able to slow the game down and kind of get to what I like to do — establish strikes early, put myself in favorable counts.

"Even then, it was hard to get guys out," Carter added. "They were fighting, so I think that was the biggest thing with those guys: They had a lot of fight in them."

The Cajuns then tied it in the bottom of the seventh, when Stefan Trosclair singled, moved to second on Brenn Conrad’s sac bunt and scored from there on Fontenot’s single to center.

"In the fall, we practice that. We practice game-winners and coming up with the big hit," said Fontenot, who was 2-for-3 with two RBI and one run scored. "So I just got in there and tried to deliver for my team."

Carter (6-2) got the win for the Cajuns and Moore got his 14th save of the season.

UL’s game started around 9:40 p.m. (central), two hours and 40 minutes later than originally scheduled.

Inclement weather pushed the Regional’s first game, No. 2 seed Arizona’s win over No. 3 seed Sam Houston State, from a scheduled 1 p.m. start time to 6 p.m.

Fifty-five minutes were needed between the two games so both teams in the second game could take infield.