Baseball: Senior Day win proves emotional for the Ragin' Cajuns + Game Photo Gallery
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 12, 2019
AN Footnote: Photo of Senior Day.
Gunner Leger found his way to the mound for one final appearance at The Tigue. Handsome Monica lost it on his final trip to first.
The sentiments were evident after UL played its final home game of 2019, Sunday’s 11-5 Sun Belt Conference series-sweeping, Senior Day win over Georgia State on M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
Down 3-0 early, Monica tied the game for the Ragin’ Cajuns with a towering home run that sailed over the scoreboard in left-center in the fourth inning.
“Honestly,” Monica said of his home run trot, “it wasn’t that emotional.
“I was just thinking, ‘We’re down by three, and I need to hit the ball somewhere and do something, put some runs on the board. And when it went out, I was ecstatic that I was able to tie the game.
“But if anything was emotional, it was my last (at-bat),” he added. “I got the first, and I kind of started to lose it over there. That last one meant a lot.”
UL seniors Gunner Leger, left, and Handsome Monica, right, celebrate the win after Sunday's 11-5 Senior Day win over Georgia State. (Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
The senior catcher singled in the eighth inning, part of a three-hit, four-RBI day.
Soon after, tears started flowing.
“I didn’t think I was gonna cry,” Monica said. “I just thought I was gonna feel some emotions, and just be ecstatic that it was my last game here at The Tigue.
“I got the last hit, and I’m at first base, and it just started to kind of come out. And I was trying to hold it in, and (assistant) Coach (Daniel) Freeman was like, ‘Just let it out, man. Just let it out.’
“Then they changed pitchers, and that gave me the ability to come over (near the dugout) and I had to ’em all out before I could go back,” he added. “It meant a lot. It meant a lot to play in front of the fans from Lafayette one last time.”
Fifth-year senior Leger, a former Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year who like Monica has dealt with injuries late in his Cajun career, entered with two outs in the eighth.
He thwarted a Georgia State threat then, and with runners on first and second in the ninth ended things by striking out Luke Leonard to get the save.
“I gave up a few hits,” Leger said, with deadpan humor, of his last Tigue appearance. “You know, I had to make it last a little longer than I probably should have. But, hey … it was awesome.
“This place is special. I’m forever indebted to these people and this university. I mean today I got to walk out here on Senior Day with my grandparents and my family and my girlfriend, and that’s basically why I came here – so my family could show up every day and watch me play.”
With three regular-season games left, the win left 25-28 UL one victory shy of guaranteeing itself a spot in the upcoming Sun Belt Tournament.
Griffin Cheney doubled in Daino Deas and later scored when Brandon Bell hit into a fielder’s choice as Sun Belt cellar-dweller Georgia State took a 1-0 lead in the first, and Elian Merejo made it 3-0 with a solo homer in the fourth.
But Monica answered with his one-out blast.
“I don’t know what that pitch was,” he said. “I just saw it, and I let the bat go.”
Later in the fourth, Kole McKinnon singled in Daniel Lahare to put UL up 4-3.
UL senior starter Grant Cox made it through 4.0 innings, exiting after giving up a leadoff walk in the fifth.
Caleb Armstrong (1-1) cleaned up, using just five pitches for three outs as Georgia State stranded its runner.
But the Panthers loaded the bases with two out in the sixth before Armstrong yielded way to Michael Leaumont.
Leaumont threw a wild pitch to the first man he faced, tying the game 4-4, but the Panthers left the bases loaded.
Daniel Lahare singled in the sixth, stole second and scored on Brennan Breaux’s single up the middle to give, and O’Neal Lochridge’s RBI singled made it 6-4.
Georgia State got one back in the seventh, but a groundout helped Leger and UL escape a two-on jam and go to the bottom of the eighth still up 6-5.
Hunter Kasuls’ RBI single made it 7-5, Todd Lott followed with a three-run homer to left and Monica’s RBI single capped the Cajun scoring.
UL and Georgia State played the ninth despite it being 2:17 p.m. when the eighth inning ended and despite a drop-dead rule for the travel-day game that no inning start after 2:15 p.m.
UL coach Tony Robichaux complained, to no avail.
“(The umpire) said he had 14 minutes and 38 seconds (after 2 p.m.),” Robichaux said. “I wasn’t trying to not give my opponents at-bats. I’ll play you in the parking lot, man; I don’t care. But the bottom line is if we’re gonna have something, you know, then enforce it.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Monica’s homer was his team-leading 12th this season. … Orynn Veillon extended his team season-long hitting streak to 17 straight games with a double in the eighth. … All five UL senior hitters – Kasuls, Veillon, Monica, Lahare and McKinnon – had at least one hit.
UL opens its final Sun Belt series 6 p.m. Thursday at UL Monroe.