Baseball: Fontenot's double-squeeze bunt lifts hit-hurting Cajuns + photo gallery
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Feb. 23, 2018
Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.
Struggling at the plate early in the 2018 season, the UL baseball team was going to do anything and everything it took to produce runs in Saturday’s middle outing of its three-game non-conference series with Wright State.
The Ragin’ Cajuns did just that, including a Kennon Fontenot double-squeeze bunt in the seventh inning that produced two runs and broke up a 3-3 game en route to a 6-3 win.
“We’ll have to (play like that) until we start hitting better and start to drive the baseball,” said Robichaux, whose Cajuns had just four hits in Friday night’s 8-2 series-opening loss and went into the next day batting just .132.
The Cajuns had six hits Saturday, including a Hunter Kasuls solo home run in the eighth, and they scored runs in their final three innings.
But the big difference-maker were the two created by Fontenot, whose bunt between the mound and third allowed Daniel Lahare to score from third and Gavin Bourgeois from second.
“It was the turning point of the game,” Fontenot said.
“I got my sign, knew I had to execute. We’ve been kind of struggling with the bats, so I knew I had to get that down and get some runs.
“Everyone is prepared to do that when we’ve got to do it,” added Fontenot, a senior who started in left field Saturday. “The bats will come around; we’ve got to use that (small ball) ’til we do.”
Robichaux, meanwhile, continues to trust that UL’s hitters are on the verge of something big.
That especially was the case after the 2-4 Cajuns produced a season-high six runs — three more than they’ve had in any other game this year.
“We’ve just to stay on the process and not get too result-oriented,” he said. “I knew this was going to be ugly to begin with, and it is, but we just have to stay with it.”
Tyler Stover’s sacrifice fly to left scored Bourgeois to give UL a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but Wright State put up two runs in the top of the second.
The Raiders increased their advantage to 3-1 when shortstop Hayden Cantrelle’s two-out throwing error allowed Alex Alders to score from third.
UL then lost two runners to blunders on the bases in the bottom of the fifth, and went to the sixth down 3-1.
But the Cajuns loaded the bases in the sixth, pushed one across when O’Neal Lochridge took a walk and tied the game at 3-3 when Kasuls hit into a run-scoring fielder’s choice and beat out a throw to first to avoid a double play.
After Fontenot’s bunt and Stover’s homer, Logan Stoelke retired the side in order in the ninth.
With the bases loaded and one out, Stoelke also struck out two Raiders to extricate the Cajuns from a jam in the eighth.
“I thought Stoelke came in and did a real good job,” Robichaux said, “especially in the critical eighth and being a strike-thrower in the ninth.”
Also in the eighth, catcher Kole McKinnon saved a run by chasing down a Stoelke strikeout pitch that got past him and throwing to first for the final out of the half-inning.
“It was very huge,” Stoelke said of the play.
McKinnon didn’t like that the ball got by him, but he was well-prepped on what to do what it did.
“Catchers will do blocking drills every day, from blocking (to) recovering behind,” he said.
“If (you) don’t know where the ball’s at, (teammates) are just pointing and saying, ‘ball, ball, ball.' A lot of chaos going on. … I just go and get the ball as fast as I can, because situations like that happen.”
Robichaux said Jack Burk, UL’s Friday-night starter, doesn’t appear seriously injured despite getting struck on his throwing elbow by a comebacker to the mound after his final pitch in the series opener.
“He woke up good,” the Cajuns coach said.
“I thought he might come in really swollen,” Robichaux added, “but he was all good.”
The Cajuns dropped Kasuls from third in the order to seventh and moved Fontenot up to the 3 spot. … Kasuls’ game-high three hits Saturday ties his career high, which he set earlier this season at Texas. … UL starter Nick Lee went 6.0 innings with seven strikeouts, and three runs and five hits allowed. … Robichaux said the Cajuns were “leaning” toward starting freshman lefty Austin Perrin on Sunday, but he wasn’t certain about that immediately after Saturday’s game.
UL and Wright State close the series at 1 p.m. Sunday.
No. 20 UL (2-4) vs. WRIGHT STATE (1-4)
WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park
RADIO: KPEL 96.5 FM with Jay Walker
PITCHING MATCHUP: TBA for UL vs. RHP Caleb Sampen (0-0, 6.75)