Mar 31, 2014 12:37 AM by UL Sports Information
LAFAYETTE - Jace Conrad belted his second grand slam of the season when he broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning and the top-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns earned a 7-4 victory over WKU in the Sun Belt Conference series finale between the teams on Sunday at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field.
Connor Toups earned his first career victory as he pitched 4.1 innings in relief for Louisiana (26-3, 8-1 SBC), ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball poll. The win marked the 700th for head coach at Louisiana for head coach Tony Robichaux, who improved to 700-462-1 in 20 seasons.
Conrad, who belted a grand slam in a 13-0 win over Texas Southern on March 8, hit the first pitch from WKU reliever Brandon Allen over the right-field fence for his sixth home run of the season. The Cajuns opened the frame when Ryan Leonards drew a leadoff walk from WKU starter Jake Thompson (2-2), before Tyler Girouard reached on a one-out bunt single and Caleb Adams singled through the left side.
"He's the guy that drives our train and bottom line is, that's what you do," Robichaux said. "He plays big in big situations and he's money. If there was anybody we want at the plate in a tough situation, it's Jace because he's tough and he's a gamer. He really stepped on the gas and broke this thing open. We did a great job today of answering back after that tough day we had yesterday."
That was more than enough for Toups (1-0), who had pitched 2.1 innings in four appearances on the season. The New Iberia native scattered three hits and walked one after relieving Louisiana starter Cody Boutte in the fifth.
"He's part of that group that had to work while they wait for their opportunity," Robichaux said. "He made the most of it. He had been throwing well leading up to this in all the innings, which wasn't a lot, but they were quality innings. Today, we wanted to stick with left-handers to give them (WKU) a different look, and Connor did a great job in finishing the game."
Louisiana took a 3-0 lead after the first three innings before WKU (14-14, 4-5 SBC) tied the game with a three-run fifth inning.
Leonards, who went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, gave the Ragin' Cajuns a 1-0 lead in the first inning when he doubled to left-center field, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Seth Harrison grounder to third.
The Ragin' Cajuns extended their lead in the third after Leonards reached on a two-out single to left and Harrison followed one pitch later with an opposite-field home run off Thompson.
The Hilltoppers led off the fifth inning when Trevor Lowe tripled to right-center field and scored two batters later on a Leiff Clarkson sacrifice fly. Scott Wilcox, Ryan Church and Ryan Messex eventually followed with two-out singles that chased Boutte before Toups got Anderson Miller to ground out to first to end the threat.
Toups was aided by a Ragin' Cajuns defense that turned a pair of double plays in the sixth and seventh innings, and a throw by Harrison from center that nailed Messex at the plate to end the eighth.
Harrison, who went 1-for-3 at the plate, drove in three runs for Louisiana, which collected eight hits off four WKU pitchers. Messex and Lowe had two hits each for WKU while Thompson scattered five hits and allowed six runs in 5.1 innings.
Louisiana will return to action on Tuesday when it hosts Tulane in a 6 p.m. contest. The game will conclude a season-high nine-game homestand for the Ragin' Cajuns, who will travel to face Troy in a Sun Belt Conference series beginning Friday at 6 p.m.