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Baseball: 'Not our standard' - Cajuns' baseball season ends in loss to Troy

Alan Blondin, Special to the Advertiser, The Advertiser, May 23, 2019

CONWAY, S.C. — UL's first losing season since 2012 came to an end Thursday — perhaps mercifully — in the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship at Coastal Carolina’s Springs Brooks Stadium.

The eighth-seeded Ragin' Cajuns fell 10-7 to sixth-seeded Troy to bow out of the double-elimination tournament.

UL won a play-in game over Appalachian State on Tuesday before falling to second-seeded Georgia Southern in 13 innings Wednesday, when it blew leads in both the 11th and 13th innings after tying the game in the ninth.

“It’s not our standard. We don’t want to be here at all,” 25-year Ragin Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “But I do appreciate all our guys and what they had to play through this year.

"We’re not happy with where we are, the standard, it’s not us. But if you coach long enough, you’re going to get into some tough seasons. We’ve been very fortunate to stay away from this in my 31 years. I’ve had an injury here or injury there, but not six or seven guys go down. That’s been the biggest challenge for us all year.”

Robichaux ran through a few of the injuries impacting this year’s team: sprained UCL, Tommy John surgery, broken foot, torn forearm muscle, broken nose and pitcher Gunner Leger’s continued recovery from surgeries last year.

More: Gunner Leger returns after 630 days between baseball games

Robichaux said four players are receiving medical redshirt seasons, and he expects them to all return next season.

“I really appreciate the team for what they had to do to try to keep this together to give us a chance,” Robichaux said. “We as a coaching staff are going to work very hard to get back and not be in this position.”

Senior right fielder Orynn Veillon symbolized Thursday the battling spirit of the Ragin' Cajuns this season. He received 10 stitches from a large gash incurred Wednesday while sliding head first into home plate but insisted on playing Thursday. He was inserted into the designated hitter spot but struck out in two at-bats and was replaced.

“He’s the epitome of what this team has been through,” said Robichaux, who has led the Cajuns to 12 NCAA Regionals and a berth in the 2000 College World Series. The Cajuns won at least 40 games from 2013-16.

The win total for 2018-19 remained at 28 on Thursday.

UL opened the scoring Thursday with three runs in the third inning. Jordan Wiley was hit by a pitch, Hayden Cantrelle doubled down the right field line with one out, Hunter Kasuls had an RBI infield single, and Todd Lott had a sacrifice fly. Kasuls scored the third run on a Monica Handsome single after stealing second and advancing to third on an errant throw.

Troy scored the next 10 runs.

UL fell to Troy on Thursday morning in the Sun Belt Baseball Tournament in Conway, South Carolina.

UL fell to Troy on Thursday morning in the Sun Belt Baseball Tournament in Conway, South Carolina.  (Photo: Sun Belt Conference)

Sophomore left-hander Logan Savoy retired the first nine Troy batters, including four by strikeout, before the Trojans chipped away at the lead with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Drew Frederic doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Sadler Goodwin in the fourth, and Rigby Mosley singled and scored on a Frederic double in the fifth.

“(Savoy) was terrific early,” Troy coach Mark Smartt said. “I thought we were a little sluggish like you can be early in the game, but I thought he had as much to do with that as our offense.”

Troy took command with five runs in the sixth.

Savoy allowed a single and two-run home run to Dalton Sinquefield before being pulled in favor of freshman right-hander Blake Schultz after 91 pitches. Savoy allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts in his five-plus innings.

“Savoy gave us a chance to win,” Robichaux said. “They forced our hand to the bullpen at that time, and our bullpen came in and we gave up six runs out of the bullpen, and that’s hard to recover from. ... The momentum flipped when they hit the two-run jack and we couldn’t stop it. That’s been a big issue for us all year is really stopping momentum after the seventh inning.”

Gunner Leger pitches Thursday, as UL fell to Troy in the Sun Belt Baseball Tournament in Conway, South Carolina.

Gunner Leger pitches Thursday, as UL fell to Troy in the Sun Belt Baseball Tournament in Conway, South Carolina.  (Photo: Sun Belt Conference)

An Austin Garofalo single and Manning Early walk preceded a safety squeeze by Reed Smith that scored Garofalo in the sixth, and Leger made the final appearance of his career, allowing a Mosley RBI double and Frederic RBI sacrifice fly before recording the inning’s final out on a flyout.

Troy added three in the seventh inning on a trio of solo home runs by Chase Smartt, Logan Cerny and Garofalo off freshman right-hander Connor Cooke.

“I thought our team all of a sudden looked more confident and comfortable,” Smartt said of the moment after Sinquefield’s homer. “We had been behind since the tournament started. We had been playing uphill the whole time. When we finally got the lead, I thought, ‘Wow, our team looks more confident,’ and all of a sudden it kind of snowballed.

“... I knew we needed every run we could get. In elimination games the other team is never going to quit, and I knew they would rally at us, and they certainly did that.”

Todd Lott takes a swing Thursday morning, as UL fell to Troy in the Sun Belt Baseball Tournament in Conway, South Carolina.

Todd Lott takes a swing Thursday morning, as UL fell to Troy in the Sun Belt Baseball Tournament in Conway, South Carolina.  (Photo: Sun Belt Conference)

A two-run homer by Todd Lott in the eighth, his eighth of the season, pulled the Ragin' Cajuns within five runs, and they added two in the ninth on an RBI double by O’Neal Lochridge and a run-scoring error with two outs.

But Lott’s deep drive to center field with a runner on was caught with a leap against the wall by Cerny, keeping the potential tying run from coming to the plate.

Leger, a fifth-year senior from Lake Charles, made more than 50 career starts and was the Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year in 2017 after missing the 2018 season because of surgeries to repair a partial ligament tear in his throwing elbow and remove a bone cyst in his leg.

He was limited this season and threw only 31 1/3 innings, though effectively with a 2.30 ERA.

“He’s been so good for so long, the first three years you kind of take him for granted because after a while it just becomes old hat. Then last year you take him off the field and it’s not the greatest year. ... He gave us everything he had this season. Hopefully he’s going to continue to recover, and I think he’ll eventually be back to where he was and have a chance maybe to play some professional baseball.

“We’re pulling for him. We hope that the game pays him back.”



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