Cajuns Stumble Against Hilltoppers in Eleven Innings
Four errors, leading to three unearned runs.
Picked off on the bases twice.
Three leads blown by the bullpen.
It all added up to a loss for Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns, as they fell to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 10-9 in eleven innings Friday night at Nick Denes Field. Ryan Flaherty's fourth hit of the game scored Blake Crabtree, who also had four hits, for the game winner.
The Cajuns (18-7, 3-4 Sun Belt) lost despite pounding out 15 hits. The Cajuns squandered a solid starting pitching performance by Ryan Wilson in the process.
The Cajuns scored twice in the first inning off WKU starter Austin Clay on RBI by Caleb Adams and Michael Strentz. But the Cajuns gave it right back in the bottom of the first inning. Thomas Peter reached on an error by Logan Preston, who failed to field a throw from third baseman Sam Carriere. Wilson struck out the next hitter, but issued back to back walks to Regan Flaherty and Devin Kelly. Ryan Huck then hit what could have been an inning ending double play ball, but the ball scooted under Carriere's glove, allowing two runs to score. Ryan Messex then grounded to Carriere, whose throw to second was dropped by Ryan Leonards. Blake Crabtree's single scored the third run of the inning, but Huck was thrown out at the plate by Adams to end the nightmare inning.
The score remained 3-2 until the fifth, when the Cajuns scored on an RBI groundout by Dex Kjerstad to tie the game. But it didn't stay tied long as Huck homered to center for his league leading eighth of the season to give the lead back to the Hilltoppers (15-11, 6-1).
The Cajuns fought back to tie it again in the sixth on Ryan Leonards double to center, and took the lead in the seventh when reliever Taylor Haydel threw a comebacker into center field allowing two runs to score and give the Cajuns a 6-4 lead.
But the Cajuns couldn't hold the lead. Wilson exited after allowing a leadoff double to Scott Wilcox when center fielder Seth Harrison slipped while getting to the fly ball. Matt Hicks, who was perfect in eight save opportunities on the season, retired the first batter, but allowed an RBI double to Devin Kelly to make the score 6-5. Huck was walked intentionally, but the strategy backfired when, after Messex grounded out to move the runners up, pinch hitter Adam Lavelle delivered a two run single to put WKU in front 7-6.
The Cajuns wouldn't quit, however, as Chase Compton led off the Cajuns' eighth with a single. Leonards was hit by a pitch. Blake Trahan bunted into a force play, but pinch hitter Jace Conrad and designated hitter Tyler Girouard lined RBI singles and the Cajuns led again.
WKU tied the game on an RBI single by Flaherty, scoring David Simmons, who had led off the inning with a single.
Neither team scored in the ninth but the Cajuns took the lead in the tenth off reliever Ian Tompkins (3-3) on a walk to Leonards, a passed ball and an RBI double by Trahan. The Hilltoppers tied the game in the bottom of the inning off losing pitcher Kody Smith (0-2). Flaherty led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Kelly. In trying to issue an intentional walk to Huck, Smith threw a wild pitch and it proved costly as Messex hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at nine.
Finally, the Hilltoppers won it in the bottom of the eleventh as Crabtree lined his fourth hit of the game, Simmons walked, and after freshman reliever Nick Zaunbrecher got the next two outs, Flaherty delivered the winner with a single through the hole between first and second.
Michael Strentz led the Cajuns' attack with four hits. Dex Kjerstad added three hits, while Girouard and Trahan had two apiece.
Because of anticipated weather on Sunday, the teams will conclude their series with a doubleheader Saturday at 1pm.