LAFAYETTE, La. – The No. 16 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team scored three unanswered runs to defeat Southern Miss 3-2 on Friday night in the squad’s debut at Russo Park in front of a packed house of 5,250.
The victory improves the Ragin’ Cajuns to 5-3 on the year, while the Golden Eagles are handed their second defeat of 2017 to fall to 7-2.
“It was just a great night for our fans,” head coach Tony Robichaux said. This all starts with the support of our president to make this night happen. I was glad we were able to cap tonight off with a quality Division I baseball game for our fans. Our fans saw good pitching, good defense and timely hitting. That’s what makes up a good quality Division I baseball game.”
Junior left-hander Gunner Leger posted his second straight quality start limiting Southern Miss to one run on four hits in six innings of work to improve to 2-1 on the season. Leger didn’t allow a free pass while striking out a season-best eight strikeouts.
The Louisiana bullpen was outstanding as Wyatt Marks and Dylan Moore combined to toss three scoreless innings to close out the contest. Marks went two innings with four strikeouts, a walk and one hit. The junior has not allowed an earned run in 11 innings this season and is tied for the team lead with 19 strikeouts.
Moore moved one save back of the Sun Belt Conference career record in the outing tallying his third save of the season and 30th of his career. Hugh Adams holds the record posting 31 saves at FAU from 2009-13.
“It was big for Dylan to get those three strikeouts in the ninth,” Robichaux added. “He did start off a little shaky, but he stood tall and got the job done. I’m glad for him, and hopefully that will build some confidence for him.”
USM starter Hayden Roberts was handed his first loss of the year after giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits with four walks and five strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles edged the Cajuns 6-5 in hits. Designated hitter Daniel Keating led the way for Southern Miss going 2-for-3 and scored a run.
Senior first baseman Alex Pinero extended his hit streak to seven games going 2-for-4 with a double and scored a run. Kennon Fontenot also moved his streak to five games in the contest.
The Golden Eagles struck first plating a run in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly to right field by second baseman Storme Cooper to take a 1-0 advantage.
The lead would be short lived though as right fielder Steven Sensley led off the bottom half of the inning by driving a 1-0 pitch from Roberts over the wall in centerfield to tie the contest at 1-all. Later in the inning, Fontenot drove a two-out triple into the gap in right center to plate catcher Handsome Monica and put the Ragin’ Cajuns in front 2-1.
Southern Miss’ best scoring opportunity came in the top of the sixth as USM twice had runners in scoring position. With runners on the corners and one out, third basemen Joe Robbins fielded a ball hit by Taylor Braley and cut down first baseman Dylan Burdeaux at the plate to preserve the lead. After Keating was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Leger clamped down and got centerfielder Matt Wallner to ground out to first to end the threat.
Louisiana added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh to extend the lead to 3-1 when second baseman Brenn Conrad was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and two outs.
The Golden Eagles looked to rally in the ninth putting the first two runners on to start the frame, but Moore shut the door with three straight punch outs to end the contest.
The two teams are back in action tomorrow at 2 p.m. as the Cajuns look to clinch the series. Sophomore right-hander Nick Lee (2-0, 0.69 ERA) takes the mound for Louisiana, while Southern Miss will counter with sophomore lefty Kirk McCarty (2-0,1.46 ERA). Fans can watch the contest for free on RaginCajuns.com. The game will also be broadcast on KPEL 96.5-FM with Jay Walker making the call.
For the latest updates on Ragin’ Cajuns baseball, follow Ragin’ Cajuns baseball on Facebook (RaginCajunsBaseball), Twitter (@RaginCajunsBSB) and Instagram (@RaginCajunsBSB) or check RaginCajuns.com.