LAFAYETTE – Heath Hood began a seven-run rally for the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Baseball team with a game-tying RBI single before Julian Brock, Max Marusak and Tyler Robertson helped put Little Rock away in a 10-4 Sun Belt Conference victory on Friday at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field at Russo Park.
Carson Roccaforte came off a rare, three-strikeout night at the plate the night before, to go 4-for-4 with his Sun Belt Conference-leading 64th RBI as Louisiana (32-21, 18-11 SBC) clinched the No. 4 seed in next week's SBC Championships in Montgomery, Ala.
Louisiana, which earned its third come-from-behind victory when trailing after seven innings, sent 11 men to the plate in the eighth after Little Rock (24-25, 11-17 SBC) built a 4-1 lead on Noah Dickerson's two-run homer on the fifth.
Trailing 4-3 after seven innings, Roccaforte led off the eighth with a single up the middle off Trojans reliever Sawyer Smallwood (5-5) before stealing second. Two batters later, Hood collected his lone hit of the night when he looped a drive over second baseman Jorden Hussein, which scored Roccaforte and tied the game at 4-4.
Kyle DeBarge reached on an infield single and Hood advanced to second on a close play to keep the inning going before Brock would follow with an RBI single through the left side to drive in Hood for Louisiana's first lead of the series.
Marusak would beat out a two-out, infield single to drive in DeBarge and give Louisiana a 6-4 lead after Will Veillon was intentionally walked by Smallwood to load the bases and reliever Jacob Weatherley then fanned Trey LaFleur.
Robertson, who finished 3-for-4 at the plate, then put the game away when he belted a 1-and-1 pitch from Weatherley over the left-field fence for the Ragin' Cajuns first grand slam since Hunter Kasuls against Georgia State in 2019.
Tommy Ray (3-2) pitched 3.1 innings in relief to earn the win for Louisiana, limiting Little Rock to a pair of hits while striking out three. The right-hander got out of a jam in the sixth inning after allowing the first two batters on base before getting a pair of strikeouts and getting Hussein to hit into an inning-ending fielder's choice.
Little Rock, which claimed a 2-0 victory in the series opener on Thursday, took a 2-0 lead in the first after scoring on an error and balk. Tyler Williams reached on a one-out double-off Louisiana starter Jacob Schultz before advancing to third on Canyon McWilliams' fly ball to center and scoring when Marusak's throw bounced over Robertson at third.
Dickerson, who was 1-for-3 at the plate, drew a walk, moved to second on Nathan Lyons' single to center, third when Eldrige Figueroa was hit by a pitch to load the bases before scoring when Schultz was called for his second career balk.
Louisiana would respond in the bottom half of the inning when Robertson reached on an infield single, moved to third on Roccaforte's base hit, and scored when Little Rock Hoss Brewer uncorked a wild pitch to Connor Kimple.
The Ragin' Cajuns cut the Little Rock lead to 4-3 in the fifth after earning three straight hits beginning with Marusak's infield single to short. Robertson added a single through the left side for Louisiana before Roccaforte lifted an RBI single to drive in Marusak and Robertson scored on a passed ball.
Schultz tied a career-best with six strikeouts in 4.1 innings for Louisiana. Brewer allowed three runs – two earned – after allowing five hits in 4.1 innings. Smallwood took the loss for the Trojans after allowing five runs on five hits in 3.0 innings.
The finale of the three-game series, the final one between the schools as league members, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday. Senior Jeff Wilson (4-3, 4.21 ERA) will earn the start for Louisiana with Little Rock expected to send freshman left-hander Michael Quevado (2-0, 5.94 ERA) to the mound.
Prior to the game, Louisiana's senior class – Jonathan Brandon, Austin Garrett, Connor Kimple, Austin Perrin, Jacob Schultz, Brandon Talley and Wilson – will be honored in a ceremony beginning at 3:40 p.m.
Following the Senior Day festivities, right-hander Drew Shifflet and former Ragin' Cajuns great and 12-year Major League Baseball veteran Jonathan Lucroy will be presented with their degrees from the University.
All youth league players who wear their team jerseys to Saturday's game will be able to receive free admission in the bleacher sections with the purchase of an adult ticket. Tickets can be purchased at the Cajundome Ticket Office or Russo Park Ticket Office on game day.
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