RUSTON – Louisiana’s Cooper Rawls made the most – and then some – of his relief appearance against in-state rival Louisiana Tech on Wednesday.
Making just his third appearance of the season, and first in over a month, the sophomore was nothing short of magnificent as he fanned 12 batters in the final 7.2 innings and helped the Ragin’ Cajuns rally for a wild, 8-6 victory at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
Rawls’ performance helped Louisiana (15-14) earn a split in its two-game, midweek series against its in-state rival while keeping the Bulldogs off the scoreboard after the third inning.
Louisiana would score all the runs it would need in the sixth inning, when it sent 11 men to the plate and scored seven runs – the most in an inning since scoring seven times against Rice in 2020.
Rawls (1-0), who made a pair of one-inning appearances in the first two weeks of the season, entered the game with one out in the second inning after Louisiana Tech (20-10) took a 5-1 lead after Taylor Young’s solo home run off Louisiana starter Peyton Havard. The right-hander fanned Steele Netterville before Julian Brock threw out Logan McLeod attempting to steal second.
The Bulldogs would score their only run off Rawls in the third when Walker Burchfield hit a one-out home run to left, putting Louisiana Tech ahead 6-1. After issuing a walk to Philip Matulia, Rawls retired the next six batters – five by strikeout – to handcuff the Bulldog bats.
Louisiana, which managed three hits through the first five innings, would erupt in the sixth off Louisiana Tech reliever Jarret Whorff (2-5). Tyler Robertson, who finished 3-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to a career-best eight games, led off the inning with a single up the middle before advancing to third on Carson Roccaforte’s single through the right side.
Connor Kimple then drove in Robertson with an RBI single to left before pinch-hitter Bobby Lada singled to center to drive in Roccaforte. Kimple scored from third when Heath Hood’s potential double play grounder was booted for an error before Austin Garrett drew a walk to load the bases.
Warnner Rincones, who finished 2-for-4 and drove in a season-high three runs, then delivered a game-tying, two-run single through the right side to drive in Lada and Hood before Louisiana took the lead for good when Garrett scored on Max Marusak’s RBI grounder to short.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would add another run to take an 8-6 lead as Robertson singled into left field to drive in Rincones.
That would be enough for Rawls as he allowed a one-out, seventh-inning single to Netterville before retiring his next six batters into the ninth.
The Bulldogs, who capitalized off a season-high 10 walks issued by Louisiana and rallied to score five runs in their final two innings in a 7-3 win on Tuesday, got back-to-back singles by Young and McLeod with one out in the ninth. But Rawls would get Netterville to hit a hard liner to Marusak in center field before getting Cole McConnell to ground out to second to preserve the win.
Louisiana Tech took a 4-0 lead in the first inning as Burchfield hit a two-run double to left before getting a sacrifice fly by Matulia and an RBI single by Kyle Hasler.
Louisiana would cut into the lead in the second after Hood reached on a hard-hit double that ricocheted away from McLeod at third before scoring on Rincones’ two-out single up the middle.
Roccaforte and Kimple each added two hits for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who recorded 11 in the game and out-hit the Bulldogs for the second straight night. Young, McLeod and Netterville – the top three hitters in the lineup for Louisiana – had two hits apiece with Burchfield adding two hits and three RBI.
Whorff, the second of five pitchers used by the Bulldogs, took the loss after allowing seven runs (three earned) and scattering five hits in 1.1 innings. Ryan Harland, making his first career start, pitched four innings and scattered three hits and struck out four in 4.0 innings of work.
Louisiana will continue its five-game roadtrip beginning Friday when it travels to Jonesboro, Ark., to face Sun Belt Conference rival Arkansas State in a three-game series. First pitch for both Friday and Saturday’s contests is scheduled for 6 p.m., with Sunday’s finale set for 1 p.m.