SAN MARCOS, Texas (ragincajuns.com) – The 17th-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team overcame an early six-run deficit to defeat eighth-seeded Arkansas State 17-10 and win its ninth straight game on Saturday to advance to the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game at Bobcat Stadium.
With the victory, the Cajuns (40-19) have became the second program in the modern era to reach the Sun Belt tournament championship game in four straight years joining Middle Tennessee who achieved the same feat from 2003-06. The Ragin’ Cajuns will look to become the first program in Sun Belt history to win the tournament in three consecutive years.
The Cajuns have also reached 40 wins for the fourth straight year, joining LSU, Vanderbilt and Louisville as the only programs to do so.
Louisiana will face sixth-seeded Georgia Southern in the championship game at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.com with Matt Stewart and John Gregory on the call. Fans can also listen live on News Talk 96.5 KPEL-FM with Jay Walker providing play-by-play and Jeff Schneider adding color.
“You have to give credit to the guys,” head coach Tony Robichaux said. “We didn’t have it on the mound early, and we were able to play good defense and swing it behind them. If you are going to make a comeback, you are going to have to get it from the bottom. The bottom stepped up today and I’m glad for (Nick) Thurman to have the day that he had with all of the work he has had to put in.
“We will get the guys rested and hydrated and get them back out here tomorrow to grind out another ballgame. Georgia Southern is a good team and we will need to be ready.”
The Cajuns win streak is the second longest active streak in the country behind Coastal Carolina who has won 10 consecutive games.
The Ragin’ Cajuns exploded for 17 hits in the game with Nick Thurman, Alex Pineroand Kyle Clement each posting three hits on the day. Both Thurman and Pinero recorded career highs for RBI as Thurman drove in five runs, while Pinero had four RBI. Steven Sensley, Stefan Trosclair and Brenn Conrad each drove in a pair of runs in the contest.
Ty White and Jeremy Brown led the Red Wolves (29-29) at the plate as they both went 3-for-5.
Reliever Jevin Huval (3-1) notched his third win of the year going 2.1 innings giving up two runs on three hits with three strikeouts.
Senior Eric Carter registered his fourth save of the year in the game allowing one run on three hits in the final four frames. Carter struck out five and walked one in the outing.
Arkansas State’s Coulton Lee (5-8) was handed the loss after surrendering four runs (one earned) on two hits with two walks in an inning of work.
A-State jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first scoring six runs on six hits and knocked starter Evan Guillory from the game before he could record an out. A two run single by Matt Burgess and a two-run double by Tony Ortiz highlighted the scoring in the inning.
The Ragin’ Cajuns cut the lead to one run in the top of the third scoring five runs on four hits and two free passes to make the score 6-5. A three-run double to left center by Thurman pulled the Cajuns within two runs before Pinero’s RBI single to right center pull the squad within a run.
The Red Wolves got a run back in the bottom of the third on an RBI single to left by White to extend the lead to 7-5.
Louisiana grabbed the lead in the top of the fourth scoring four runs on two hits and an ASU error. Sensley brought home Clement on a sacrifice fly to right center to cut the Arkansas State advantage to 7-6. The Cajuns evened the contest at 7-all on a throwing error by shortstop Tanner Ring as Trosclair would score from second on the play. Thurman put the Ragin’ Cajuns up for good in the next at-bat with a two-out, two-run single through the right side of the infield to give Louisiana a 9-7 edge.
In the top of the fifth, the Cajuns added four more runs on five hits to grab a six-run lead at 13-7. A Trosclair two run triple to right field highlighted the scoring in the inning.
Garrett Rucker cut the Ragin’ Cajuns lead to 13-9 in the bottom half of the fifth on a two run double to left center.
Arkansas State cut the lead to 13-10 in the bottom of the sixth on a White RBI single to shortstop, but that is as close as the Red Wolves would get down the stretch.
Pinero added a two-run single in the seventh, and Louisiana tacked on two more runs in the ninth to make the final 17-10.
Sophomore right-hander Wyatt Marks (4-6, 4.70) will make the start for the Cajuns in the championship game. Georgia Southern will counter with left-hander Evan Challenger (7-4, 3.11 ERA). Live stats for the game is available on SunBeltSports.org.
For updates and info on Ragin’ Cajuns baseball, follow the squad on twitter @CajunsBaseball or check RaginCajuns.com.