Louisiana Drops Semifinal 3-2 in 11 Innings to Georgia Southern
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball team had their 2021 season finish with a 3-2 loss in 11 innings to the Georgia Southern Eagles in the Sun Belt Tournament semifinals.
With the loss, Louisiana's final record for the 2021 season is 32-23.
The Cajuns pitching staff was outstanding against the best offense in the Sun Belt Conference, but the hitters struggled throughout the game.
Louisiana was 1-14 with runners on base and 0-11 with runners in scoring position. They only recorded five hits in the 11 innings.
Drake Osborn singled on the first at-bat of the game for the Cajuns, and he advanced to second base on a throwing error. A sac-bunt moved him to third, but a strikeout and line-out stranded him to start the game.
Carter Robinson got the start for Louisiana, and he had a good performance. Georgia Southern opened the scoring with three consecutive singles in the second inning to take a 1-0 lead, but Robinson was able to limit the damage.
A leadoff single and walk in the bottom half of the second inning put the tying run in scoring position early, and, after a fly-out advanced the lead runner to third, a double-steal with two outs tied the game at 1-1. A strikeout stranded a runner in scoring position for the Cajuns again.
After the walk in the second inning, the Louisiana offense went cold. The Eagles starting pitcher kept the Cajuns off-balance and retired 18 batters in-a-row. He faced the minimum in five-straight innings to keep Louisiana at one run. The offense could not get a runner on base against him after the second inning.
In the top half of the fifth inning, a leadoff home run ended Robinson's day, but the bullpen was also fantastic for the Cajuns.
Hayden Durke and Chipper Menard kept the Eagles scoreless in the fifth. Sam Riola, who made his pitching debut on Thursday against App State, threw 2.1 scoreless innings. Brandon Talley finished the eighth without giving up a run. In those four innings, there were only two hits given up.
Georgia Southern went to their first-team all-conference closer in the eighth inning, and Louisiana's hitless stretch finally broke at 20-straight with two outs in the inning. A single broke the streak, but a deep fly-out ended the inning.
Jacob Schultz pitched a scoreless ninth inning, and the Cajuns were down to their final three outs, but they kept fighting.
Tyler Robertson was hit by a pitch to open the inning, and Brennan Breaux got Louisiana's only hit of the game with a runner on base to move him to third base. With no outs, Ben Fitzgerald hit a ground ball, and the Eagles tried to tag Robertson at home, but the ball fell out of the catcher's glove and he was called safe. Louisiana had tied the game at 2-2 and had runners at first and second with still no outs.
However, a failed bunt attempt and two pop-ups prevented the Cajuns from walking it off and finalizing their spot in the championship game.
The two teams went to extra innings. Spencer Arrighetti came on for Louisiana and threw a clean 10th inning, but the Cajuns offense could not string together hits to walk it off.
In the 11th inning, a one-out walk and single for the Eagles put runners at the corners and ended Arrighetti's day. A squeeze bunt single scored the winning run to put Georgia Southern ahead 3-2.
To end the frame, the Cajuns got a two-out double by Bobby Lada, but he stayed at third base on an infield error in the next at-bat. With the tying run at third base and the winning run at first with two outs, a groundout ended Louisiana's season.
The Louisiana pitching staff was excellent, allowing only three runs in 11 innings to the conference's best offense. The bullpen combined to give up one run on seven hits in seven innings.
Cajuns head coach Matt Deggs gave the Eagles credit after the intense victory, but also noted that Louisiana did not have a walk-off win in 2021.
"Everyone fought tooth and nail," Deggs said. "They gave incredible effort, but the game was kind of a microcosm of our season. I don't know if we had a walk-off win all year."
Deggs said little mistakes killed the Cajuns in the extra-innings loss.
"We had a chance to make a couple of plays there, we missed some signs, and they found a way to score," Deggs said "We've got to get a lot better, I'll tell you that. There's no moral victories here. This was a tournament for the taking. That's what we do as Cajuns: we win."
Deggs also mentioned that the team needs to improve significantly to reach where they want to be as a program.
"We've got to improve," Deggs said. "We're not where this program needs to be. We've taken a step towards that, but this is a program that needs to be fighting for a regional and super regional every year. We've got to improve in just about every facet."
Georgia Southern and South Alabama will play for the Sun Belt Tournament championship game and an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.