LAFAYETTE – The hits came early and often for the Northwestern State baseball team in its first trip to UL Lafayette since 2016.
However, the Demons left M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park still looking for one big hit Tuesday night.
Northwestern State stranded nine runners in the first five innings, allowing the Ragin’ Cajuns to rally in the middle innings and pull away for an 8-3 win.
“You do a good job to get them out there, but we just couldn’t get the big hit there,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We had some good performances out of some guys, who swung the bat well. Hopefully, we’ve got a couple of guys who are coming around.”
The Demons (10-8) tallied single runs in each of the first three innings but left at least one runner in scoring position in each and had a runner picked off of third with one out in the second inning.
After a wild start to the third inning in which J.P. Lagreco tripled to center field and scored on a Cajuns error on the same play, the Demons loaded the bases with two outs before failing to bring home another run, leaving them with a 3-2 advantage.
The Cajuns (10-11) battled back to tie the game at 3 in their half of the third as Hayden Cantrelle led off with a triple and scored on Brennan Breaux’s single. Cantrelle’s triple was part of a 4-for-4 night for the Cajuns leadoff hitter, who capped his night with an eighth-inning double that completed his first career cycle.
Cantrelle started the decisive rally against Demons reliever Robert Burke (0-1) with a leadoff triple in the fifth inning.
Two batters later, after a groundout and a Handsome Monica walk, Hunter Kasuls delivered a tie-breaking, two-run triple to give the Cajuns a lead they never relinquished.
“(Starting pitcher) Cullen (McDonald) has been so good for us for three straight games, and they were finding some holes off him,” Barbier said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. We’ve got to be more competitive and learn we can win games more ways than just with a good starting pitcher. That’s something this team has to grow into. This game, when Cullen came out, was still a 3-3 game. The guys in the bullpen have to do a better job of pounding the strike zone, and the hitters have to do a better job of fighting through the whole thing.”
While the Cajuns scored five times against four Demons relievers, Northwestern State scratched out one run and just four hits in seven innings against Cajuns relievers Connor Cooke (2-0) and Jack Burk.
Burk worked the final three innings, allowing only Larson Fontenot’s eighth-inning triple, to notch his first save of the season.
Meanwhile, the Cajuns drew three walks and struck out just twice against the Demons’ relievers.
“We had more three-ball counts tonight than we’ve had in three weeks it seems,” Barbier said. “When you’re 3-1, you make anyone look like a good hitting team. Hopefully, those guys who got their opportunity will learn from it and take it into the weekend.”
Cantrelle, Kasuls (2-for-3) and Alex Hannie (2-for-4) combined for eight of the Cajuns’ 12 hits while Lagreco (2-for-4), Jakob Nunez (2-for-4, 2 doubles) and Fontenot (2-for-3, RBI) tallied six of the Demons’ nine hits.
Northwestern State returns to action Friday night when it hosts Lamar in the opener of a three-game Southland Conference series at Brown-Stroud Field.