The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns are going to advance to the Super Regional for their second straight season. This time around, it is as the 3 seed instead of the number 1 seed from a year ago. The Cajuns rode two come-from-behind wins over Rice (7-6) and Houston (2-1) to take control of the regional. After Rice beat Houston in the fourth longest game in NCAA history on Sunday night (20 innings over six hours long), the Owls were in a position to have to beat Louisiana twice to advance.
On Monday afternoon however, the Ragin Cajuns wouldn’t need any miraculous come from behind innings late in the game to seal the deal. Louisiana got the offense going early and kept their foot on the gas for all nine innings. In the fourth, Stefan Trosclair found himself on third base after he reached on an error by the third basemen. He then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. The Cajuns DH Tyler Girouard singled him home on the next pitch to give Louisiana, its first lead of the ball game at 1-0.
In the top half of the fifth, the Ragin’ Cajuns did more damage. With one run already scored in the inning and two outs with the bases loaded, Evan Powell singled up the middle to score pinch runner Joe Robbins and Kyle Clement to double their lead to 4-0.
Rice did strike for two runs in the fifth, when Tristan Gray led-off with a single and Kirby Taylor singled to left with one out. Grayson Lewis followed a fly out by Leon Byrd with a double into the left-center field gap to score both Gray and Taylor, cutting the lead in half. Louisiana head coach Tony Robichaux said that he and his team knew that Rice would be a challenge no matter the circumstances, “Rice is a great ball club. We knew they would come out and grind with us and it was a grind. We knew that’s the way it would be. You have to give them a lot of credit being able to turn it around (after 20 inning game Sunday night). You have to give those guys credit by coming out today, and pushing us all the way to the end the way that they did.”
Rice was able to threaten again in the seventh with the bases loaded and nobody out, but Tony Robichaux went to the bullpen for Dylan Moore who got a strikeout of Grayson Lewis, a 3-2 fielder’s choice from Warren, and a fly out from Stainback to get out of the inning without a run. Moore pitched the final two innings for the Cajuns in his second save of the tournament and his 13th of the season, increasing his record. Rice head coach Wayne Graham spoke about their day at the plate, “You have really good games where you don’t give much away and you hit with runners in scoring position. This wasn’t that day. We push a hit over the infield and all of a sudden it’s a great ballgame, a great close ballgame.” The Cajuns pushed a final run across in the eighth to seal the deal at 5-2.
Ragin’ Cajuns’ freshman closer Dylan Moore spoke about coming into a crucial spot in the game to shut Rice down, “Coach Robichaux said to go out there and to pitch, and if you had to trade a run, then do. It just worked out. We played good defense, and it worked out so I didn’t have to do it.”
Jordan Stephens took the loss in Rice’s final game of the season pitching 4.2 innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits and striking out five. “We really appreciate the effort of Jordan (Stephens) coming back from Tommy John, helping us win a championship, and I hope that professional baseball realizes what a great pitcher he can be as a professional,” said Graham on his starting pitcher.
Evan Powell was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament after the game. On the award he said, “Coach told me congratulations. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. He said MOP. I couldn’t even put it together, but I’ll take it and I’m fortunate to get it.”
Louisiana will travel to Baton Rouge to take on the Louisiana State Tigers this coming weekend. LSU is coming into the tournament as the overall number two seed and will host all the way to Omaha.