As the season trudges on for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Baseball team, another conference matchup with the South Alabama Jaguars began in Russo Park on March 25. The Jaguars came into the series sporting a 15–4 record, including a sweep of their first conference matchup against the University of Texas at Arlington. Despite recent disappointments, Cajuns fans still filled the stands 4,000 strong for each game of the series.
On Friday, both teams started off hot in the first inning; a Will Veillon error off a Hunter Stokes single opened the scoring, and the Cajuns answered with a well-placed groundout from freshman shortstop Kyle DeBarge off a 1–1 count to tie the game at 1–1.
Junior right fielder Heath Hood’s and DeBarge’s at-bats would prove invaluable to the Cajuns, as their runs in the second and third innings would help extend the lead off a throwing error and a Veillon triple, respectively. The Jaguar’s Diego Altamirano’s double-RBI shot in the fourth inning would again tie the game, 3–3.
The scoring would go dead silent for an incredible six innings, taking the game late into the night with extra innings. The Jaguars’ Cameron Tissue would end the drought with a clutch home run off a full pitch count in the eleventh inning. Not to be outdone, the Cajuns rallied with hits from redshirt freshman Conor Higgs, junior center fielder Max Marusak and DeBarge to walk the game off, 5–4.
Senior Brandon Talley and sophomore Bo Bonds would handle most of the pitching duties that day, as sophomore starter Chipper Menard would be pulled after just two batters. Bonds would put up an incredible 14 strikeouts to one earned run, helping the Cajuns outdo the incredible efforts of Jaguars’ reliever Miles Smith.
The Cajuns’ next game on Saturday saw the Jaguars raced out to an early lead off the bats of Charles Middleton, Hunter Donaldson, and Reid Powers. Cajuns star right fielder Carson Roccaforte answered with a three-run homer in the fourth to tie the game, 3–3. The Jaguars lineup would again take a three-run lead in a brutal sixth inning that would see the Cajuns use three pitchers in an attempt to escape. Roccaforte would follow up with two more runs, including a solo homer in the ninth in an attempted comeback rally, but the Cajuns would fall one run short, 5–6.
That this game wasn’t even more out of hand is a testament to the Cajuns’ bullpen, as the Jaguars would record 12 hits this game, but only score off half of them. Senior pitcher Jacob Schultz would tally his first loss of the season, and Ray would clean up the last three innings with no runs allowed.
The Cajuns’ final game of the weekend would again start strong for both teams with homers courtesy of the Jaguars’ Miles Simington and the Cajuns’ Roccaforte; score 2–2. A Connor Kimple shot to midfield would take the lead for the Cajuns in the fourth inning, and Simington would again answer in the seventh with a double to left. Finally, the Cajuns would shut the door in the same inning with a flurry of hits from Bobby Lada, Tyler Robertson, DeBarge, Roccaforte, and Veillon to end the game 6–3.
Redshirt freshman Dylan Theut records his first win in this one, aided by a save from Menard and a 72-pitch outing from senior Jeff Wilson. Overall, this was a much more positive series from the Cajuns as a whole. Areas of concern, like errors and cold stretches in the batting lineup, are still present; and while not perfect, the legend of Carson Roccaforte and the clutch factor of this entire team may actually start to turn this season around.