Louisiana Baseball Beats No. 14 UC-Irvine 7-4 to Even Up Series
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball team bounced back from an opening night loss by taking down the UC-Irvine Anteaters 7-4 on Saturday afternoon in Russo Park.
With the win, they improved to 1-1 overall. It sets up a winner-take-all game in the finale on Sunday. Louisiana was very effective on the base paths, picking up steals and using bunts to put pressure on the UC-Irvine pitching staff. Head coach Matt Deggs complimented the team's approach.
"We did a good job of taking what the game gave us," Deggs said. "We were able to get three or four bags today, got a couple of bunts down, and I think that's going to lead to us banging in the future. We were able to score in three different innings with our legs."
Peyton Havard got the start in game two for the Cajuns and quickly got the first two outs of the first inning. The Anteaters got a two-out walk, and, two hits later, they had a rally to put the first run of the game on the board.
Louisiana's offense instantly answered in the bottom half of the first inning by giving the Anteaters a taste of their own medicine. An infield hit and two bunt singles loaded the bases, and Connor Kimple came up big with a two-RBI single. On the hit, Kyle DeBarge went from first to third base, so a sacrifice fly-out by Carson Roccaforte gave the Cajuns three runs to take the lead.
Havard gave up another two-out walk in the second inning, but this time, it didn't spiral out of control. He was able to get the third out afterwards. In the third inning, Havard gave up another walk to start the inning, but the Cajuns were able to convert a double-play. A two-out hit-by pitch was followed by a defensive gem by third baseman Tyler Robertson to keep UC-Irvine off the board.
The fourth inning was Havard's best in the game. In nine pitches, he recorded three outs by fly balls. The quick, efficient inning brought the Cajuns offense back out, but they couldn't get a base runner to end the fourth.
Chipper Menard came on in relief of Havard to start the fifth inning. Havard's day finished with two hits, three walks, and one run over four innings of work. For the second straight game, a bad fifth inning really hurt Louisiana.
Menard hit the ninth hitter in the lineup on a two-strike count and gave up a single to put runners at the corners. A single that went off his glove scored a run. A groundout advanced two runners into scoring position, and a flyout wasn't deep enough to bring in the tying run. However, a clutch two-out two-RBI single gave the Anteaters the 4-3 lead. A two-out walk ended Menard's day and brought in Cajuns pitcher Jacob Schultz who finally got the last out.
Louisiana's bats were quiet following their three-run first inning, but they took advantage of defensive mistakes to explode back into the game. In the fifth, a dropped foul ball extended an at-bat, and Max Marusak was hit by a pitch. He stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error. Robertson brought him home on an infield single and stole second to put the leading run in scoring position.
DeBarge brought Robertson to third base on a groundout, and, with two outs, Kimple came up with his second big hit in the game. This time, a clutch two-run home run put the Cajuns in front 6-4.
Schultz worked a quick 1-2-3 inning for Louisiana in the sixth. He recorded two strikeouts in the frame.
Schultz left the game with two outs in the seventh and a runner on second base. Freshman left handed pitcher Dylan Theut came on, and a line-out to DeBarge stranded the Anteaters' base runner. Schultz finished the day with two hitless innings, giving up one walk and striking out two batters.
In the bottom of the seventh, Marusak earned a leadoff walk and stole his second bag of the day. Robertson's bunt single put runners at the corners without any outs, and a double-play still allowed Marusak to score. The Cajuns entered the eighth inning with a 7-4 lead.
The top of the eighth was stressful for Louisiana fans. Theut got a strikeout to start things out, but he didn't get a call on a close 3-2 pitch and walked the next batter. A single brought the tying run to the plate, and Theut came back for his second strikeout. The second walk of the inning loaded the bases with two outs, but a groundout got him out of a big jam unscathed.
Deggs stuck with his freshman pitcher for the final inning of regulation, and Theut gave up a leadoff double and walk to bring the tying run to the plate three different times. However, two strikeouts and a groundout once again stranded multiple runners, and Louisiana won 7-4 to even up the series.
Theut earned the save in his Cajuns debut. He threw 2.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts. Schultz picked up the win. The top of the lineup got it done offensively for Louisiana. They picked up all seven hits and Kimple finished with four RBI on two hits from the cleanup spot.
Deggs talked about Kimple's hot start to the season offensively.
"He has a really mature approach going right now," Deggs said. "He's using the whole field. You're seeing a really good approach. He's filling out the box and he's able to stay through anything they're throwing right now."
Up next, Louisiana faces UC-Irvine in the finale of the three-game weekend series. The rubber match is scheduled to start at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday at Russo Park.