Senior Ryan Wilson’s three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth lifted the 14th ranked Louisiana baseball team to a 9-8 win over Eastern Illinois in the series finale Sunday afternoon at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field. Wilson had a career-high four RBI in the game.
“Wilson is a tough guy who waited his turn last year in the outfield,” head coach Tony Robichaux said. “He wanted to do both this year and had the opportunity with Dex Kjerstad gone. Wilson certainly capitalized on his opportunity today.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns (3-1) posted double-digit hits in the second straight contest as they were edged out 13-12 in hits by the Panthers (1-3). Outfielders Seth Harrison and Evan Powell each had three hits in the game with Harrison going 3-for-5 with a triple, RBI and score a run, while Powell was 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run.
“With the opening weekend you want to get the bad taste out of your mouth and win in different ways,” Robichaux added. “We accomplished that, and I feel that this team is starting to get locked in at the plate. I’m proud of the way the guys competed today to come back and win the series. We have a lot of guys who can hit that we didn’t use at times this weekend. I think when we get everyone going this is going to be a very dangerous team at the plate.”
Freshman Chris Charpentier earned his first win of the season after throwing 1.2 innings in relief, while starter Cody Boutte was chased from the game in the fifth inning after giving up six runs (five earned) on eight hits with four strikeouts in 4.1 innings.
EIU’s Garrison Stenger was tabbed with the loss. Stenger surrendered five runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings of work.
The Panthers got the scoring started in the top of the first when Mitch Gasbarro came in to score on a ball hit to first by Caleb Howell.
Louisiana answered in the bottom half of the first plating four runs on three hits and an EIU error to take a 4-1 advantage. Jace Conrad got things going with an RBI triple to center. After a Tyler Girouard RBI double, Ryan Leonards came in to score on a ball hit to short by Wilson. Powell capped the scoring for the Cajuns in the inning driving in Girouard on a single to right.
In the top of the fourth, EIU cut the lead to 4-2 on an RBI single by catcher Jacob Reese.
Eastern Illinois pulled in front 7-4 in the top of the fifth scoring five runs on four hits and a Cajuns error. A Brant Valach three-run triple to right center highlighted the scoring for the Panthers.
The Ragin’ Cajuns regained the lead in the bottom half of the fifth answering with a five-spot of their own fueled by five hits including the Wilson three-run homer. Louisiana also scored on a Blake Trahan single and a Harrison triple.
With the Cajuns up 9-7 in the top of the sixth, Howell knocked in his third run of the game on a sacrifice fly to right field to pull the Panthers within a run.
Eastern Illinois saw the minimum go to plate in the seventh and eighth innings as senior Matt Hicks was solid in relief for Louisiana.
In the top half of the ninth, EIU threatened with runners on second and third and one out, but freshman reliever Reagan Bazar got Valach to pop up to short and Montana Timmons to line out to center to end the threat and pick up his first career save.
“If Bazar can take care of the back part of the bullpen we can move guys up and shorten the game,” Robichaux mentioned. “He is going to get so much better. His slider continues to improve which has made him a tough guy to hit.”
Louisiana set a series attendance record against EIU with 10,556 in attendance over the weekend. That mark bests the 9,032 that saw the Cajuns play against South Alabama on May 16-18, 2003.
The Cajuns are slated to face Northwestern State on the road Wednesday night at 6 p.m. before heading to Southern Miss for a three-game series next weekend starting on Friday at 6 p.m. at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, Miss.