Cajuns head into Sun Belt tourney with second straight win over Little Rock

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Jake Hammond


LAFAYETTE – It was only fitting that the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Baseball senior class played a key role in the final Sun Belt Conference series of the season against Little Rock.

Jeff Wilson and Austin Perrin combined to scatter six hits with nine strikeouts in 7.2 innings on the mound while Connor Kimple, Jonathan Brandon and Austin Garrett each collected hits as Louisiana scored seven runs in the final two innings to pull away and defeat Little Rock, 9-3, in the regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.

Carson Roccaforte and Heath Hood each had four hits with CJ Willis going 3-for-4 at the plate as Louisiana (33-21, 19-11 SBC) pounded out 17 hits and claimed the final SBC series against Little Rock (24-26, 11-18 SBC).

With its seven-member senior class honored in a pre-game ceremony, plus the traditional Graduation ceremony which saw former Ragin’ Cajuns All-American Jonathan Lucroy officially earn his degree, Louisiana wasted no time getting on the scoreboard.

Roccaforte, who went 4-for-4 in Friday’s 10-4 victory, opened up a 4-for-5 performance on the final day with a first-inning single to left before scoring two batters later on Hood’s RBI single to center.

Little Rock claimed a 2-1 lead in the third inning after Noah Dickerson’s two-run double down the left-field line scored Aiden Garrett and Tyler Williams.

The Ragin’ Cajuns tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom half of the third when Tyler Roberton led off with a double down the left-field line and scored on Roccaforte’s RBI single.

Louisiana would break open the contest in the seventh with a pair of runs off Little Rock starter Michael Quevedo (2-1) as Roccaforte singled through the right side before advancing to third on Kimple’s ground-rule double to right. Hood, who finished 4-for-4 with a walk and two RBI, then greeted reliever Erik McKnight with a single to center before Kimple would score on Willis’ opposite-field RBI single.

The Trojans would close to within 4-3 in the eighth as Dickerson reached on a one-out walk, moved to third on Canyon McWilliams’ double and scored on Nathan Lyons’ RBI grounder. But with the go-ahead run at second, Jake Hammond got Jake Wright looking at a called third strike to end the threat.

That would propel Louisiana to five runs in the bottom half of the inning as the Ragin’ Cajuns would bat around in the eighth for the second consecutive day. After scoring seven runs to pull away in Friday’s win, Louisiana followed the same script as Max Marusak would draw a leadoff walk before stealing second.

After Robertson was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second, Roccaforte then hit a ground-rule double down the right-field line to drive in Marusak for a 5-3 lead. Kimple followed with an RBI single to plate Robertson before Roccaforte would score on Kyle DeBarge’s fielder’s choice.

Two batters later, Willis would add his third straight hit as he lined a two-run double into the left-field corner to score pinch-runner Conor Higgs and DeBarge.

Perrin (3-0) earned the victory for Louisiana after allowing a pair of hits and striking out two in 2.2 innings of relief. Wilson fanned seven batters and scattered four hits in 4.2 innings while Hammond and David Christie pitched the final 1.2 innings with a strikeout each.

Little Rock was led at the plate by Dickerson and McWilliams who had two hits each. Quevedo scattered 12 hits and allowed four runs in 6.1 innings for the Trojans, in their final season in the Sun Belt Conference before moving to the Ohio Valley Conference this summer.

Louisiana will open play in the 2022 Guardian Credit Union Sun Belt Baseball Championship at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery, Ala., on Wednesday as the No. 4 seed in the 10-team field. The Ragin’ Cajuns will face fifth-seeded South Alabama in the opening game with the winner of the May 24-29 event earning the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals

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