LAFAYETTE – App State scored four runs in the first two innings and added a pair of insurance runs late before holding off a Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns rally in an 8-5 Sun Belt Conference victory on Saturday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
The final game of the three-game series is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday. 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 (15-10, 6-2 Sun Belt) took a 3-0 lead three batters into the game when leadoff hitter Xavier Moronta reached on a fielding error before Austin St. Laurent reached on an infield single.
Luke Drumheller would follow with a home run over the right-field fence off Louisiana starter Jackson Nezuh (4-1) before the Mountaineers added a run in the second when Braxton Church scored from third on a balk.
Louisiana (18-9, 5-3 Sun Belt) would chip away with runs in the second and third inning. The Ragin’ Cajuns loaded the bases with one out in the second inning after Julian Brock was hit by a pitch, John Taylor singled up the middle and Luke Yuhasz was hit by a pitch.
Conor Higgs’ sacrifice fly drove in Brock before App State starter Bradley Wilson (2-2) got a strikeout to end the inning.
Max Marusak led off the third for Louisiana when he reached on a two-base error and moved to third on a passed ball. Ben Robichaux’s RBI grounder would score Marusak and Heath Hood would reach on a single and move into scoring position on a stolen base before Wilson got a strikeout and hard liner to short to end the frame.
The Mountaineers added a pair of runs in the fifth after Moronta led off with a single and moved to third on St. Laurent’s double off the wall in center. Hayden Cross would follow with an RBI single before Golston Gillespie’s fielder’s choice would allow St. Laurent to score for a 6-2 lead.
App State added a run in the eighth on Moronta’s sacrifice fly to center for a 7-2 lead before the Louisiana bats would wake up.
Carson Roccaforte lined a one-out single up the middle before Brock scorched a liner inside the third-base bag to put runners on first and second. Taylor then belted his third home run of the season when he hit the first pitch from reliever Collin Welch over the right-field fence to cut the deficit to 7-5.
Pinch-hitter Caleb Stelly would then hit a ground-rule double to center to put the tying run at the plate, but Welch and reliever Dante Chirico would combine for a pair of strikeouts to end the threat.
Gillespie added an insurance run in the ninth for App State when he hit his 10th home run of the season – a solo blast to left – to put the Mountaineers ahead, 8-5.
Louisiana would load the bases in the ninth off Mountaineer closer Jackson Steensma as Marusak led off with a walk before moving to second on Ben Robichaux’s single to right. After both runners advanced on Hood’s grounder to first, Roccaforte drew a walk to load the bases, but Steensma got Brock to foul out before getting Taylor to lift a flyball to right to record his fifth save of the season.
App State’s top three hitters – Moronta, St. Laurent and Drumheller – combined for six of the Mountaineers’ 11 hits in the game. Andrew Terrell went 2-for-4 for App State with Gillespie driving in a pair of runs.
Wilson allowed a pair of hits and fanned six batters in 6.0 innings for the Mountaineers, who won their third straight game over the Ragin’ Cajuns in the all-time series and claimed their second straight series in Lafayette dating back to 2019.
Taylor led Louisiana at the plate going 2-for-5. Robichaux and Higgs each drove in runs for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who stranded 10 runners and collected five of their seven hits in the final two innings.
Nezuh, who dropped his first game in six career decisions, went 4.1 innings for Louisiana and scattered seven hits with five strikeouts.
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