LAFAYETTE – Carson Roccaforte hit a one-out, RBI single through the left side to fuel a three-run eighth inning and help lead Louisiana past Sun Belt Conference co-leader Georgia Southern, 6-3, in the opening game of a SBC series on Friday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park.
Max Marusak and Kyle DeBarge each belted home runs while Brandon Talley and three relievers combined on a six-hitter as Louisiana (13-12, 3-4 Sun Belt) won its third straight game while snapping a three-game losing streak to Georgia Southern (17-9, 5-2 Sun Belt).
Louisiana quickly took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Marusak belted the first pitch from Georgia Southern starter Jaylen Paden for his first home run in a Ragin’ Cajuns uniform – and first since his freshman season at Texas Tech in 2019. The Eagles tied the game at 1-1 in the third as Austin Thompson tripled to lead off the inning and scored on Jesse Sherrill’s squeeze bunt.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would break the deadlock on the bottom half of the inning after Tyler Robertson reached on a two-out walk and stole second. DeBarge gave Louisiana a 3-1 lead as he belted a 1-and-2 pitch from Paden off the scoreboard in left-center field for his second home run of the year and first at Russo Park.
Talley kept Georgia Southern off-balance as he scattered four hits and struck out four in a career-high 5.2 innings of work. The Eagles chase Talley in the sixth after one-out singles by Jason Swan and Christian Avant before Noah Ledford’s RBI grounder would drive in Swan.
The Eagles would tie the game at 3-3 in the eighth as Parker Biederer led off with a single to center and scored on Swan’s one-out double off Louisiana reliever Tommy Ray (2-2). After Avant was hit by a pitch putting runners on first and second, Ray would settle down getting Ledford looking at a called third strike before Swan was thrown out at third trying to advance on a wild pitch.
Robertson led off the decisive inning for Louisiana after getting hit by a pitch from Georgia Southern reliever Jay Thompson (2-1) before moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by DeBarge.
Roccaforte, the SBC leader in RBI (31) entering the game, delivered the eventual game-winner as he hit a 1-and-0 pitch from Thompson through the left side to drive in Robertson. Pinch-hitter Connor Kimple would then move Roccaforte to second on a sacrifice bunt and Heath Hood would follow with a bloop single to right to give Louisiana a 5-3 lead.
Hood would give the Ragin’ Cajuns an insurance run one batter later as Julian Brock’s pop-up into shallow right field was dropped by Sherrill allowing Hood to score from first.
Chipper Menard pitched a hitless ninth with a strikeout to earn his third save of the year for Louisiana with Hayden Durke tossing 1.1 innings of hitless relief. Ray earned his first victory for the Ragin’ Cajuns since defeating Southern Miss on March 4.
Paden scattered four hits, struck out two and allowed three runs for the Eagles with Thompson giving up three runs – two earned – with a strikeout in an inning of work.
The 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 on the #GeauxCajuns app. Louisiana will send senior Jacob Schultz (1-3, 4.58 ERA) to the mound with Georgia Southern countering with southpaw Ty Fisher (2-1, 1.66 ERA).
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