Baseball: Veillon's walk-off homer ends UL's losing streak in style
Kevin Foote, The Advocate, March 14, 2019 firstname.lastname@example.org
Freshman Chance Stone was UL’s final true pitcher option as the game entered the bottom of the 12th with Sun Belt Conference play just two days away.
If another Cajun pitcher was needed, Veillon was next.
The UL Ragin' Cajuns' 10-3 loss Tuesday night to the UNO Privateers was ugly.
Instead of having to cross that bridge, Veillon sent Ragin’ Cajuns fans home tired but happy with a walk-off home run to lead off the bottom of the 12th for a 6-5 win over Southern Mississippi on Wednesday at Russo Park.
“I was just thinking swing hard and bat-to-ball skills,” Veillon said. “ I really wasn’t trying to do anything spectacular. I was just trying to get on base for the team.”
Veillon said it was his second all-time walk-off homer, having done it once in his high school days at St. Thomas More.
“I can’t even explain it (the feeling round third base),” said Veillon was received the ice-bucket and the pie-in-the-face treatment during his triumphant postgame interview. “It was a feeling I will cherish.”
The win snapped a three-game losing streak and put UL at 7-10 going into Friday’s Sun Belt Conference opener at Little Rock.
Riding that three-game losing streak, including a humbling seven-run loss to UNO on Tuesday, the last thing the UL Ragin’ Cajuns coaching staff needed was a topsy-turvy affair.
That’s just downright playing with their emotions.
In the end, however, the roller coaster’s final turn was right in the wheelhouse for the Cajuns.
“Hopefully, this will get us over the hump and we can start getting this momentum and roll with it,” Veillon said. “Once you have momentum, you have to stick with it. This is a big-time win for us and hopefully this weekend we can pick it back up.”
The game’s cruelty began in the sixth inning.
The had started out good enough when Daniel Lahare, who began the evening with a .143 batting average, delivered an RBI double to tie it in the second inning.
But in the sixth, what should have been a lead-off single by the Eagles’ Erick Hoard was played into a triple to set up a two-run inning for a 3-1 USM lead.
That somewhat spoiled a valiant relief outing by southpaw bullpen specialist Grant Cox, who ended up allowing two runs on two hits in three innings.
UL coach Tony Robichaux warned all who would listen Sunday and Monday that it might be a bit tricky piecing together enough pitching to cover …
Then the game began to shine on the Cajuns in the sixth. UL scored two runs on a wild pitch and a passed ball to tie it, before Brennan Breaux’s hustle beat the wrap on a bang-bang play at first for an RBI infield single in the seventh to give UL the 4-3 lead.
But before the Cajuns dugout could feel good about taking the lead for the first time, the Eagles were hitting a clutch two-out, two-run double off the wall from No. 9 hitters Cole Donaldson to give USM a 5-4 lead.
The range of emotions got worse in the eighth.
Hunter Kasuls led off the frame with a single and advanced to second on a passed ball.
Pinch-hitter Connor Dupuy fouled off two bunts before walking. Then Veillon’s perfect sacrifice bunt put two in scoring position.
“Oh yeah, bunting is harder than it seems,” Veillon said. “But you’ve got to do it for the team.”
Lahare continued his big night at the plate with an RBI squeeze bunt to tie it at 5-5.
That brought Jack Burk to the hill in the ninth. Another defensive miscue put two on with one out, but Burk overcame a 3-0 count for a strikeout and then a fly out to keep it tied.
Go figure, Michael Leaumont entered the game with a 1.88 ERA, only to give up two runs to squander the lead, only for Burk and his 32.40 ERA to toss a shutout inning.
“The back story is you’ve got to stay grinding,” Robichaux said. “I told them before the game, ‘I don’t know when this is going to turn. I don’t know when we’re going to be able to take the snake off you.’ But eventually if you keep fighting, I know one thing to be true. You have a chance if you keep fighting. The other thing I know to be true is if you quit, it’s over.”
Freshman right-hander Chance Stone pitched the final three innings for the Cajuns in shutout fashion to earn the first win of his collegiate career.
“We’ve got a freshman who has given up a lot of earned runs decide to stand up,” Robichaux said of Stone. “That’s a good thing. This shortens that bus ride a little bit. Now we’re 0-0 going into this weekend.”