Cajuns get out gate fast, overwhelm A-State In SBC opener, 15-4
LAFAYETTE – Heath Hood led off a two-out rally with an RBI double, fueling a seven-run first inning and helping the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns overwhelm Arkansas State, 15-4, in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams on Friday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
Jake Hammond (2-1) recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts and scattered four hits in a career-best 7.0 innings on the mound as Louisiana (12-6, 1-0 Sun Belt) swiped seven of its season-high 11 stolen bases in the first inning and scored its most runs in a SBC contest since a 19-8 win at ULM on May 18, 2019.
The second game of the three-game series will start at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Louisiana will send right-hander Brendan Moody (0-2, 2.53 ERA) to the mound with Arkansas State (7-9, 0-1 Sun Belt) countering with southpaw Hunter Draper (0-1, 5.30 ERA).
The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ with fans able to listen to the game in the Lafayette area on KPEL-FM (96.5) and worldwide in the Varsity Network app.
Ben Robichaux, making his first career start, Kyle DeBarge and Mason Zambo had a pair of hits apiece as Louisiana pounded out 14 hits and added six runs in the eighth – highlighted by Conor Higgs’ opposite-field, grand slam.
Hood opened the flood gates for Louisiana in the first inning as his two-out double just inside the third-base line scored Robichaux for a 1-0 lead. Zambo would follow with an RBI double off ASU starter Tyler Jeans (1-2) to drive in Hood and give the Ragin’ Cajuns a 2-0 lead.
John Taylor would add a two-run double to right to drive in Zambo and Julian Brock for a 4-0 cushion before the Ragin’ Cajuns capitalized on consecutive ASU miscues after Jean recorded strikeouts.
Will Veillon kept the inning alive after he reached on a wild pitch after swinging at a ball in the dirt and putting runners on the corners. The Ragin’ Cajuns executed the first of two double steals in the inning as Taylor would score from third for a 5-0 lead and Max Marusak would reach after a passed ball with Veillon advancing on his second stolen base of the inning.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would extend their lead to 6-0 after a second double steal with Marusak taking second and Veillon crossing the plate before Marusak stole third and scored on a Red Wolves’ throwing error.
Louisiana, which collected eight hits and nine RBI with two outs in the contest, added a pair of runs in the sixth after Hood reached on a two-out throwing error and allowing DeBarge to score from second.
Arkansas State scored a run in the fifth when Brayden Caskey scored from third after an errant pickoff got past Taylor at second. The Red Wolves scored twice in the eighth when Allen Grier doubled and later scored on a wild pitch before Blake Burris scored on a fielder’s choice by Caskey.
The Ragin’ Cajuns answered with six runs in the eighth beginning with Carson Roccaforte’s sacrifice fly to deep center before Clay Wargo recorded his first collegiate hit with an RBI single to left.
Peyton LeJeune then drew a walk to load the bases for Louisiana and Higgs would follow with his first career home run – a 370-foot shot that slipped inside the left-field foul pole for Louisiana’s second grand slam of the season.
DeBarge and Veillon each swiped three bases for Louisiana, which improved to 21-for-21 in stolen bases in its last two home games. Marusak added a pair of steals for the Ragin’ Cajuns with Robichaux, Hood and Taylor each recording a steal.
Jeans allowed four hits and gave up seven runs – six earned – with three strikeouts in 1.0 inning of work for Arkansas State, which was playing its second road game of the season. Cross Jumper added a pair of hits to lead the Red Wolves, who entered the game ranked among the top-15 Division I leaders in doubles (43).