LAFAYETTE – App State scored a pair of runs with two outs in the third inning to break a 1-1 tie and Xander Hamilton and two relievers combined for 18 strikeouts in a 3-2 win over the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in the opener of a three-game Sun Belt Conference series on Friday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
The second game of the three-game series will resume on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ and can be heard in the Lafayette area on KPEL-FM (96.5) and worldwide on the Varsity Network app.
App State (14-10, 5-2 Sun Belt) took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning after Xavier Moronta and Luke Drumheller reached on singles before Moronta scored on Hayden Cross’ RBI grounder to first.
Louisiana (18-8, 5-2 Sun Belt) tied the game in the bottom half of the inning after Ben Robichaux led off with a walk, stole second and moved to third on Heath Hood’s infield single. Hood would be thrown out on a steal attempt at second and allowing Robichaux to score and put Louisiana on the board.
The Mountaineers sent eight men to the plate in the third inning as they capitalized on a pair of walks and a pair of hit batters by Louisiana starter Jake Hammond (2-2) to take the lead. Moronta, who went 2-for-4 for App State, drew a walk to lead off the inning before moving to second on Austin St. Laurent’s single to left.
Cross would load the bases when he was hit by a pitch with one out in the inning before CJ Boyd drew a two-out walk to plate Moronta and Hunter Wilder was hit by a pitch to allow St. Laurent to score.
That would be enough for Hamilton (5-1) who struck out 13 batters in 6.0 innings of work while allowing four hits and a pair of runs. The right-hander struck out the side in the second inning and seven of the first 10 batters he faced.
Louisiana would close the gap in the fourth inning after John Taylor led off with a double into the right-field corner and moved to third on an error. Carson Roccaforte hit an RBI single to center and Julian Brock drew a walk for the Ragin’ Cajuns before Hamilton would eventually get a fly ball to center and a grounder to third to get out of the inning.
After a pair of strikeouts to open the fifth inning, Louisiana loaded the bases as Robichaux singled to center field before Taylor and Hood drew back-to-back walks. Hamilton would get a fly ball to right to end the inning before striking out the side in the sixth.
Skylar Brooks and Jackson Steensma pitched the final 3.0 inning for the Mountaineers and only allowing an eighth-inning walk to Hood. Brooks fanned a pair of batters in 2.0 innings of action for App State before Steensma fanned the side to notch his fourth save of the year.
Ben Tate pitched a career-high 4.2 innings in relief for Louisiana, allowing one hit and striking out a pair of batters.
Single-game tickets are available by visiting the Louisiana Athletics Box Office at the Cajundome or purchasing by visiting Account Manager [am.ticketmaster.com]. For more information call the Louisiana Athletics Box Office at the Cajundome at (337) 265-2104.
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