Cajuns Squander Last Chance, 2-1 in 11 Innings
It was a microcosm of the 2012 season.
An error gives up an unearned run.
A mental error gives up the winning run.
Fail on three bunt attempts, including a suicide squeeze.
Hit into five double plays.
Waste another outstanding pitching performance.
The little things have cost Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns during their worst season in the Tony Robichaux era, and little things ended the only chance they had to qualify for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, falling in eleven innings to Louisiana-Monroe, 2-1 at M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
The Cajuns (23-29, 11-18 Sun Belt) will miss the postseason tournament for the first time in eleven years. And, this chance ended in a most frustrating way.
ULM (27-27, 14-15) had only three hits through the first ten innings, but Caleb Clowers lined a single off Caleb Kellogg (3-4) to start the eleventh, extending his hitting streak to 22 games. Joey Rapp followed with a single, putting runners at first and second. Following Judd Edwards’ sacrifice to move the runners, Taylor Abdalla hit a comebacker to Kellogg, who threw home, getting Clowers in a rundown. Catcher Chris Sinclair ran Clowers back toward third, but didn’t throw to try and get the putout, while Rapp scrambled back to second. Abdalla was safe at first, loading the bases. The Cajuns came within one out of getting out of the jam when Kellogg fanned Corben Green, who struck out five times on the night. But, with Brandon Alexander batting, Kellogg uncorked a wild pitch allowing Green to score.
The Cajuns got a leadoff single by Chase Compton to open their half of the eleventh, but after Dylan Butler struck out, Tyler Girouard hit into the fifth Cajuns’ double play of the night to end things.
With the win, the Warhawks assured themselves a place in the conference tournament in Bowling Green, KY next week.
The loss spoiled a brilliant outing by Cajuns’ starter Chris Griffitt, who allowed only two hits and an unearned run in 6.1 innings of work. Griffitt walked only one and struck out a career-high eleven batters. The eleven strikeouts tied a season high for a Cajuns pitcher. Jordan Nicholson struck out eleven against Western Kentucky earlier this year.
But Griffitt was victimized in a scoreless game in the seventh inning. ULM third baseman Judd Edwards popped up a bunt attempt, but Sinclair dropped it for an error. After two failed sacrifice attempts, Abdalla tripled in the left-center gap to give the Warhawks a 1-0 lead. Griffitt struck out Green and reliever Matt Hicks walked pinch hitter Brandon Alexander intentionally. Hicks then made an acrobatic play on a safety squeeze bunt by Logan Fiasco. Hicks dove and gloved the bunt, rolled over and threw a strike to Sinclair to nab Abdalla on a close play. First baseman Chase Compton then made a diving stop of a grounder by Les Aulds and threw to Hicks for the out to keep the Warhawks at one run.
The Cajuns got the equalizer in the bottom of the inning against ULM starter Cale Wine. With one out, Compton singled and Girouard walked. Jordan Bourque then delivered Compton with an RBI single, sending Girouard to third. On the first pitch to Daniel Nichols, the Cajuns tried a suicide squeeze, but Nichols popped up the bunt for an easy double play to end the inning.
Wine, who gave up ten hits and three runs through five innings against the Cajuns in the earlier meeting in Monroe, was solid, allowing just six hits through seven innings. He walked one and struck out two in a no decision. He exited after giving up a leadoff single to Sinclair in the eighth. Winning pitcher Wil Browning (6-3), struck out Brian Bowman after failing twice to get a sacrifice bunt down. With two out, Jace Conrad singled but Browning got Compton looking at a third strike to end the inning.
The Cajuns had another chance in the tenth when Sinclair led off with his third hit of the night. But Bowman popped up a bunt, Ryan Leonards struck out and Jace Conrad grounded out to end that threat.
The Cajuns also had a golden opportunity in the third inning when Sinclair lined a double down the right field line with one out. Bowman was hit by a pitch and Leonards singled to load the bases. But Conrad hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
After allowing a first inning double to Jeremy Sy, Griffitt allowed only a walk and two hit batsmen before Abdalla’s triple in the seventh. He struck out the side in the fourth and fifth innings.
The Cajuns will wrap up the season tomorrow night at 6pm. Freshman Austin Robichaux is scheduled to get the start for Louisiana. The Cajuns seven seniors will be honored with their commemorative scrapbooks before the game and nine current and former Cajuns will be honored with graduation ceremonies before the game. The graduates include current players Brian Bowman, Chris Sinclair, Jordan Nicholson, Daniel Nichols, Tyler Frederick and Joe Zimmerman. Former Cajuns Michael Cook, Alex Fuselier and Matt Goulas will be honored for finishing their undergraduate degrees as well.