by Matt Hebert
THIBODAUX – Nicholls State plated three runs in its final two at bats to steal a midweek victory from the Ragin' Cajuns baseball team here Tuesday evening at Ray E. Didier Field.
The Colonels (18-20), playing from behind since the third inning, drew a 3-all tie in the eighth inning on a two-run home run by Keith Corimer.
A sliding catch in center field by Mike Barba stranded the Cajuns (24-12) potential go-ahead run at second base in the top of the ninth.
Then in the bottom of the frame, after a pair of runners reached base with two outs, Barba delivered a walk-off single that hopped over the reach of two Cajuns defenders in the left side of the infield to give the Colonels the comeback victory.
Nicholls picked up a season series split with Louisiana and defeated the Cajuns at Didier Field for the second straight meeting.
Louisiana heads north on Interstate 49 on Wednesday to complete a suspended game with Northwestern State at Brown-Stroud Field in Natchitoches at 6:30 p.m. The squad is back at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field Friday-Sunday, April 19-21 hosting Florida Atlantic in a key Sun Belt Conference series.
The loss spoiled an outstanding start from Kody Smith who held the Colonels to one run and five hits in 5 1/3 innings, beginning the game with four straight scoreless frames.
It was a hard-luck defeat for Cord Cockrell who retired the first six Colonels he faced after entering with one out in the sixth inning and was one out away from a scoreless eighth inning before Cormier's home run.
Cockrell retired the first two Nicholls hitters in the ninth, but a hit by pitch on the next at bat and subsequent infield single gave the hosts extended time.
Barba took the first offering from Matt Hicks, who relieved Cockrell after the two runners reached with two outs, and bounced it into left field. The Cajuns throw to home sailed high and out of the reach of catcher Michael Strentz.
Before the Colonels rally, Smith and Cockrell protected a lead that was gained in the third inning on run scoring base hits from Dex Kjerstad and Ryan Leonards.
The Cajuns had picked up an insurance run in the eighth inning, advancing their lead to 3-1, on a Blake Trahan sacrifice fly.
Kjerstad followed up his school-record tying five hits in the UALR finale with a three-hit evening (3-of-4). It was his team-leading 15th multi-hit game of the season.
Leonards extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games and reached base for the 19th straight game. Dylan Butler finished 2-for-3 to record a multiple-hit game for the second straight appearance.
Marc Picciola stranded a Cajuns runner at third base (eight inning) and second base (ninth inning) in his 1 2/3 innings of relief and collected the victory.
BASES NOTED: Louisiana was dealt its second walk-off defeat of 2013 (3/29 at WKU)…The Cajuns lost to Nicholls for only the fourth time in the past 19 meetings…UL is now 5-3 in midweek games, having lost two straight (Tulane and Nicholls)…Kody Smith made his first midweek start since the Feb. 26 LSU contest…In his last two midweek appearances, Smith has pitched 12 2/3 innings and held the opposition to three runs (two earned) and eight hits…Opponents are hitting a paltry .186 off of Smith in his last two midweek appearances…Dex Kjerstad posted his fifth game of three hits…The Cajuns are now 5-2 in one run games, both losses coming on the walk-off defeats to WKU (3/29) and Nicholls (4/16)…The Cajuns and Colonels played two low-scoring affairs this season, combining for just 13 runs in the two meetings…Louisiana posted a comeback in the first meeting with four runs to break a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning on Feb. 27…Dex Kjerstad hit leadoff for the 33rd time in 34 appearances and is hitting .366 (49-of-134) when serving as the Cajuns leadoff man…Tomorrow evening, Louisiana and Northwestern State will resume the contest that began last Wednesday with the Cajuns leading 3-0 in the top of the fourth with runners on first and second and no outs…Ryan Leonards will need to pick up a hit (if the game is finished) to keep his hitting streak (which is at 13 games) alive as Leonards was 0-for-2 in his first two plate appearances on April 10 in Natchitoches.