COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Julian Brock celebrated his 21st birthday with a game-tying, two-out RBI single in the sixth inning before CJ Willis followed one batter later with a triple as the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns used two-out magic to defeat No. 22-ranked TCU, 7-6, in the opening round of the NCAA College Station Regional on Friday at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
Louisiana (37-21), which won its season-high sixth consecutive game, advanced in the winner’s bracket to face host and No. 5-ranked Texas A&M (38-18) on Saturday at 6 p.m. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ and can be heard in the Lafayette area on KPEL-FM (96.5), the Varsity Network and the #GeauxCajuns app.
Making its first appearance in the NCAA Regionals since hosting in 2016, Louisiana collected seven of its eight hits and scored all of its runs with two outs. The Ragin’ Cajuns, who defeated their third straight ranked opponent, took a 3-0 lead in the second inning before taking the lead for good in the sixth after TCU (36-21) took a 4-3 lead on Kurtis Byrne’s two-run single.
“Nothing fazes these kids,” said Deggs. “They just kept running and kept going, and it paid off eventually. Our baserunning forced a couple of mistakes and we were able to steal a couple of bases. Our speed definitely loosened things up for us, and we came up with some big hits tonight too. I thought (Will) Veillon’s first at-bat got us going, and Trey followed that up. We’ve been really good all year with two strikes and two outs.”
Louisiana took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Will Veillon drilled a fastball from TCU starter Riley Cornelio (4-5) over the left-field wall to drive in Brock, who reached when he was hit by a pitch.
Two pitches later, Trey LaFleur hammered a 1-0 fastball from Cornelio to right-center field to extend Louisiana’s lead to 3-0.
TCU battled back in the third inning when Tommy Sacco hit his 13th home run of the season when he connected with a two-run blast off Louisiana starter Brandon Talley to cut the Ragin’ Cajuns lead to 3-2.
The Horned Frogs would add a pair of unearned runs in the fifth to take their only lead of the night after getting their first two runners on base with a walk and error. Garrison Berkley led off the inning with walk off reliever Austin Perrin before moving to second when Elijah Nunez’s sacrifice bunt attempt was bobbled by Brock to put runners on first and second.
Bo Bonds (5-3) would replace Perrin and strike out Sacco and get Brayden Taylor to ground out before Byrne singled through the right side to drive in both runners and give TCU a 4-3 lead.
Brock would respond in the top of the sixth for Louisiana after TCU picked up a pair of outs when Tyler Robertson fouled out to first and Carson Roccaforte was thrown out on a close play at second.
After Heath Hood reached on a two-out walk and stole second, Brock laced a single into right field to drive in Hood and knot the game at 4-4. Willis, who went 2-for-4 in the game, would then greet TCU reliever Luke Savage with a triple into the right-field corner and allowing Brock to score from first to put Louisiana back on top, 5-4.
“Coach is very big on responding to our mistakes. I felt like, in that moment, I had to do something big,” Brock said. “There were two outs, and that’s typically our bread and butter. I thought that it was a good opportunity to tack on a run after Heath (Hood’s) stolen base that he had with a runner on second.”
Louisiana added a run in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead after Roccaforte reached on a two-out single, stole second and scored when Robertson’s infield chopper to the mound was thrown away by Taylor.
After TCU cut the deficit to 6-5 in the seventh on a solo home run by Porter Brown, Louisiana would force another error to push the lead back to two as Warnner Rincones’ chopper back to the mound was thrown away by reliever Drew Hill, allowing Willis to score.
TCU added a run in the eighth on David Bishop’s two-out double and would threaten in the bottom of the ninth after Austin Krob retired the Ragin’ Cajuns in order.
A two-out walk by Nunez kept TCU alive before Sacco drew a walk off reliever Dylan Theut before the southpaw got Taylor to hit a grounder to second to record his third save of the season.
“I thought that it was a heck of a game, and one of our best games of the year from a toughness and aggressiveness standpoint,” Deggs said. “We just kept coming and coming and coming. TCU is a really good ball club and they ran some good arms at us tonight. I thought we did a great job of competing all night on the bump, at the dish and specifically on the bases.”
Willis led Louisiana at the plate finishing 2-for-4 while Brock scored a pair of runs for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Bonds picked up the victory for Louisiana after scattered three hits and striking out seven in 4.2 innings of action.
Sacco and Bishop had two hits each for TCU, which will face Oral Roberts (38-19) in an elimination game at noon on Saturday.
“First, I want to tip my hat to Louisiana,” TCU Associate Head Coach Bill Mosiello said. “They did a really good job of competing and stayed really aggressive. We did a good job of throwing a couple guys out and they still had the guts to steal a bag that ended up being a big run for them.”
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