Louisiana Pitching Propels Second Win Over Northwestern State
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball team completed their midweek sweep of the Northwestern State Demons by beating them 6-3 at Russo Park on Wednesday night.
With the win, Louisiana improved to 5-4 before their big weekend series at home against Southern Miss.
For the second straight game, the Cajuns pitching staff combined for 15 strikeouts. This time, however, they cleaned up the free passes and only issued two walks. Louisiana's offense stranded 10 runners in the game, but they were able to get on base and terrorize the Demons' defense with five stolen bases. Carson Roccaforte had another big three-RBI game for Louisiana as well.
Head coach Matt Deggs complimented his pitching staff and also talked about his team's aggressiveness on the base paths in the two victories.
"We responded after last night," Deggs said. "We've been able to strike out guys and give up fewer hits in innings pitched. We threw a lot of big arms tonight that can really help us, and they all did outstanding. I was proud of them."
"We've been able to use our legs to create innings," Deggs added. "We are going to be a team that gets really dangerous offensively, but until that happens consistently we still have our legs when they give us an opportunity.
Peyton Havard started for Louisiana and recorded two quick outs in the top of the first. However, a two-strike hit-by-pitch and a fielding error put two on base. Havard came back with a big strikeout to end the inning.
Northwestern State had a pair of quality defensive plays in the first inning to give the Cajuns two outs before Roccaforte got an infield single. However, Roccaforte, who had stolen five bases against the Demons on Tuesday night, was caught stealing to end the inning.
Havard gave up a leadoff single but came back to record a fly-out. Next, catcher Julian Brock threw the runner out as he was trying to steal second, and Havard got a strikeout to get out of the inning.
The Cajuns had some bad luck in the second inning. Two hard hit balls ended in outs, and a strikeout worked a clean frame for the Demons. Havard came back for a third inning of work and sat the Northwestern State batters down in order with a pair of strikeouts.
Louisiana put together a big rally in the third to strike first. CJ Willis singled and stole second to start the inning. Bobby Lada reached on a throwing error, and Willis scored on the play to break the scoreless tie. Will Veillon was hit by a pitch and Kyle DeBarge walked to load the bases with one out. Roccaforte cracked a RBI-single on a two-strike count to plate two more runs. On the play, DeBarge got to third base, so a sacrifice fly-out by Connor Kimple gave the Cajuns a 4-0 lead.
Hayden Durke relieved Havard in the fourth inning and threw a scoreless frame. Lada attempted to spark a two-out rally with a double, but the Cajuns stranded two to end the fourth.
Cooper Rawls replaced Durke to start the fifth, and the Demons scored three runs with two outs to cut the lead to 4-3. Rawls stranded two runners to prevent any further damage. The Cajuns got a run back thanks to more quality baserunning. Roccaforte walked to leadoff the inning, and he got to third base on a failed pickoff attempt. Tyler Robertson brought him home with a RBI-single. However, Louisiana stranded him at third base.
After David Christie threw a clean frame, the Cajuns were primed for another big inning. Brock walked, Veillon singled, and DeBarge was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. However, two strikeouts stranded three runners, and the Demons captured momentum.
They continued building that momentum when Cajuns reliever Chipper Menard walked the ninth batter in the Demons lineup. A bunt-single put two on, but Menard slammed the door shut with three straight strikeouts.
Two leadoff walks were left in scoring position to end the seventh for Louisiana, but Jake Hammond stranded a leadoff double with a scoreless top of the eighth.
The Cajuns continued to cause stress on the base paths. Veillon struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch. He stole both second and third base to set up a sacrifice fly-out by Roccaforte which gave Louisiana an insurance run to make it 6-3.
Roccaforte came up with a huge home run-robbing catch in the top of the ninth, and Jacob Schultz recorded his second save of the year by getting the final two outs. Louisiana completed the two-game midweek sweep of Northwestern State.
Up next, Louisiana plays a three-game weekend series at home against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The Golden Eagles are 6-2 this season after taking down No. 9 Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Deggs asked Louisiana fans to show up for the games this weekend.
"We need everybody here," Deggs said. "Our best player is Cajun nation and we are going to need them big time this weekend."
Game one of the series is scheduled for Friday, March 4 at 6:00 p.m.