(UL Athletics) LAFAYETTE – Two nights after Caleb Stelly drove in pinch-runner Ben Robichaux for the game-winning run in Louisiana’s home opener, the freshmen duo was at it again in the Ragin’ Cajuns third game of a four-game set against BYU.
Stelly delivered a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning as Louisiana walked off the Cougars in a gritty 2-1 victory before an announced crowd of 4,098 on Friday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
Louisiana (5-1), which overcame 14 strikeouts at the plate and 10 walks issued on the night, found a way to claim its second series of the young season.
“I really don’t have to say anything, we walked 10 and struck out 14 times … and still won,” head coach Matt Deggs said. “That requires a lot of character because that’s not a recipe you need to try too many times. You’re not going to live to tell about it, and it speaks to the character and unselfishness of this team.”
Julian Brock opened the ninth for Louisiana with an opposite-field double off BYU reliever Mason Olsen (0-1) before being replaced by Robichaux. Mason Zambo moved Robichaux over to third on a sacrifice bunt up the first-base line.
Stelly, who drove in Robichaux with an RBI single in the eighth inning of a 4-3 win on Wednesday, would follow with a flyball to right and allowing Robichaux to score for the Ragin’ Cajuns first walk-off win of the season.
“That’s who I wanted (at the plate), so it worked out perfect,” Deggs said. “He got caught looking at a called third strike earlier, and he’s got … the gift of a short memory. And a lot of times, as a hitter, that’s what you need.”
The first six innings featured a pitching duel between Louisiana’s Jake Hammond and BYU right-hander Bryce Robison. Hammond, who allowed an unearned run in his second career start, scattered three hits and fanned five batters in a career-high 6.0 innings before giving way to Carson Fluno in the seventh.
Robison kept Louisiana off-balance at the plate as he scattered three hits and struck out 10 before Olsen opened the seventh for the Cougars.
Louisiana took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when Brock hit a 441-foot blast – his first of the season – to center off Robison.
BYU (2-5) rallied to tie the game at 1-1 in the fifth after benefitting from a pair of walks and a throwing error. Tate Gambill and Brad Ball each earned one-out walks for BYU before Gambill scored from second when Kyle DeBarge’s throw on a potential double-play ball by Ozzie Pratt got past Hammond at first.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would have an opportunity to retake the lead in the sixth after DeBarge reached on an infield single and moved to third after Brock Watkins’ throw skipped past first baseman Jacob Wilk.
Robison would strike out Heath Hood before Carson Roccaforte drew a walk and moved to second on a stolen base. Robison would then come back to fan Brock before getting Zambo to fly out to left to end the inning.
The Cougars threatened to take the lead in the ninth after Alex Sardina and Wilk each drew a walk off Dylan Theut to open the frame. Theut would get Gambill to pop up on an attempted sacrifice bunt before Blake Marshall (2-0) came in, getting Ball looking at a called third strike before eventually getting Pratt to hit into a fielder’s choice after BYU loaded the bases with two outs.
Hood and Brock combined for four of Louisiana’s five hits with each going 2-for-4 at the plate. Marshall, who earned his first victory in nearly two years in Wednesday’s victory, pitched the final 0.2 innings with a strikeout to earn the win in relief.
Olsen took the loss for the Cougars after allowing a pair of hits and striking out four in 2.2 innings.
“We pitched it really well when we had to,” Deggs said. “Too many walks, obviously. Too many punchouts, offensively. But the numbers never matter with this team. It’s always about rising to the occasion whenever they get that opportunity and going and getting it. And they did that tonight.”
The final game of the four-game series is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. with Louisiana sending right-hander Jackson Nezuh (0-0, 15.00 ERA) to the mound. BYU will counter with southpaw Cutter Clawson (1-0, 0.00 ERA).