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Baseball: Why the Ragin’ Cajuns cruised in Sun Belt Conference Baseball Tournament opener

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 27, 2021

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With the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns  going all-in to win its Sun Belt Conference Tournament game Thursday against Appalachian State, Wednesday night’s opener amounted to little more than a warmup.

The Ragin’ Cajuns rolled, beating Texas State 12-6 at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery, Alabama.

“It basically was a glorified practice,” coach Matt Deggs said.

“In all my years … I’ve never been a part of anything where essentially the game doesn’t have a lot of outcome on a tournament except for confidence and momentum.”

UL (31-22) started Jack Burk, saving their top two pitchers, Connor Cooke and Spencer Arrighetti, for later in the tournament. Burk lasted two pre-planned innings before Austin Perrin, Hayden Durke, Sam Riola and Peyton Havard each worked a shutout inning.

Most Cajun position starters were replaced by the sixth inning.

Because of the tournament format – four three-team pools, with each pool winner advancing to Saturday’s semifinal round – Wednesday’s game was essentially inconsequential.

Here’s why: Texas State (21-36) already was eliminated because it lost its pool play opener to Appalachian State 1-0 on Tuesday. The pool winner will be whichever team wins Thursday’s Cajuns-Mountaineers game (7 p.m., ESPN�). If all three teams finish 1-1 in pool play, UL advances because it is the pool’s highest-seeded team at No. 1 in the West.

Cooke will start against App State, Deggs said Wednesday night.

What happened

UL gave its pitchers ample run support early as Ben Fitzgerald singled in Brennan Breaux, Connor Kimple singled in Fitzgerald, Brandon Talley scored from third on an errant throw as Kimple stole second and Bobby Lada tripled to score Kimple and CJ WIllis in a 5-0 first inning.

Texas State got two back in the second, but center fielder Breaux threw out Jaxon Williams at the plate to end the inning.

The Cajuns picked up another run in the third, when Talley scored on Kimple’s sacrifice fly. They added two more in the fourth when Drake Osborn doubled in Lada and Tyler Robertson came across on Carson Roccaforte’s sac fly, and then three in the sixth when Alex Hannie scored on a bad throw and Jonathan Brandon delivered a two-run triple. Hannie scored again in the eighth.

Texas State tacked on two runs in the seventh and two in the eighth, but Austin Bradford used a strikeout to end it with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth. 

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How they got there

UL went into as the tournament as Sun Belt West Division co-champs. The Cajuns claimed the top seed in the West after beating Troy 2-1 last Saturday to finish 13-11 in Sun Belt play, then winning a tie-breaker with Texas-Arlington.

Texas State was No. 6 seed in the West. Appalachian State (21-30) is the No. 4 seed in the East.