LAFAYETTE, La. – Having to battle their way through the losers bracket, the top-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team never trailed in a winner-take-all championship game at the Lafayette Regional on Monday holding on to win 5-3 against Mississippi State to advance to the Lafayette Super Regional.
The Cajuns (57-8) will host Ole Miss (43-18), the winner of the Oxford Regional, this weekend at “The Tigue”. Dates and times will be announced tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. CT. This is the Ragin’ Cajuns first time to host a super regional and the program’s third appearance overall (first since 2000).
The 57 wins moves Louisiana within three of the NCAA record for wins in a season since the 56-game regular season was implemented in 1992. Florida State holds the record with 60 wins in 2002.
First Team All-American Jace Conrad was named the Lafayette Regional Most Outstanding Player after going 11-for-23 with 10 RBI and scored five runs. The junior posted a team-best two hits in the game with an RBI and scored twice.
Conrad was joined by teammates Blake Trahan, Ryan Leonards, Seth Harrison and Michael Strentz on the 2014 Lafayette Regional All-Tournament Team.
“I give a lot of credit to Mississippi State. They were a tough ball club,” head coach Tony Robichaux said. “The pitching that we faced was outstanding. We were going to have to be really good, our approach at the plate was going to have to be really good, and it was. I give credit to our fans too because that’s critical again, having the adrenaline that they gave us for this weekend has been phenomenal. We did a great job tonight. Again credit to our opponent that was a very good baseball team.”
Senior Ryan Wilson was outstanding in the start limiting Mississippi State (39-24) to three runs on four hits in 6.2 innings to earn his sixth win of the year.
Matt Plitt notched his fifth save of the season after coming into the contest in the seventh and throwing 2.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts and two walks.
“Ryan went out and pitched a great game for us, and gave us everything he had” Robichaux added. “Matt has been one of the hottest guys out of our bullpen for the last 30 days and to come out there and get those big outs like he did was just huge.”
Mississippi State’s Lucas Laster fell to 0-1 on the season as he gave up three runs on three hits with three walks in 2.2 innings.
Conrad gave the Cajuns a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on a two-out single through the right side of the infield to score Michael Strentz from second (one-out walk).
After the Ragin’ Cajuns loaded the bases later in the inning, Conrad came in to score on a wild pitch by relief pitcher Jacob Lindgren. Following a walk to Caleb Adams walk, Blake Trahan scored on another wild pitch to make the score 3-0 Louisiana.
Strentz extended the lead to 4-0 in the top of the fourth as he perfectly executed a suicide squeeze to score Seth Harrison from third.
MSU broke into the scoring column in the bottom half of the fourth on a sac fly to right by Wes Rea bringing home C.T. Bradford from third to cut the lead to 4-1. Bradford singled to start the inning. He then moved to third after a Brett Pirtle single and a Gavin Collins lineout to right field.
The Bulldogs cut the Cajuns lead to one run in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and two on, Bradford singled to left center to bring home Matthew Britton. In the next at bat, Pirtle sent an RBI single through the right side of the infield to cut the Ragin’ Cajuns advantage to 4-3.
Trahan gave Louisiana an insurance run in the top of the ninth singling in Conrad from second. Conrad was hit by a pitch with two outs and then stole second for his team-leading 22nd steal of the season.
Plitt retired all three batters that he faced in the ninth to close out the contest and give the Cajuns the Lafayette Regional title.
Louisiana Head Coach Tony Robichaux Quotes
On Ryan Wilson’s performance: “The one thing we felt good about was I thought we needed five runs to win. We also knew they were going to come at a premium with those type of arms…we knew it was lurking. We knew going into the day it was going to be tough so we handed the ball off to one of the toughest guys on this team. Win, lose or draw, the greatest thing about him is his mental toughness. The one thing about him (Wilson) is I don’t care where he’s at, even if it’s at 35 percent, he’s going to throw down with all 35. So we knew that we had a chance because we knew we weren’t going to have somebody that was going to pitch soft or pitch scared, he’s never done that. That’s what he did. He gave his team a chance to win. That’s what tell our pitchers when they go out, we don’t care about your wins or your draft status or all-conference or records, what we care about is you give our team a chance to win when you toe the rubber.”
On the team’s approach at the plate: “Coach (Matt) Deggs is one of the better hitting coaches out there. One of the things I respect about him that he does is he gives them the ability to come up to the plate and fight. But, if there’s a weakness anywhere in there sometimes people will use us against us. We’ve improved upon that from last year to this year. I thought yesterday it started when we put in a lot of more forced takes. We talked about being able to make sure that once we saw the pitcher against Jackson State to put in more forced takes. We went to taking a little bit more. We did a good job of that tonight, stayed patient and kept a very good approach because we knew what kind of arms we were going to see. Our fans created a lot of pressure on them and helped us stay patient at the same time.”
Louisiana Second Baseman Jace Conrad Quotes
On being able to register a three-run inning early: “It was very important. We tried to jump on them early and hoped that it would just play to our benefit and it did. We give credit to our pitchers; we only put up five runs for them today compared to the 14 yesterday. They did a great job of keeping their push and just get outs for us.”
Louisiana Starting Pitcher Ryan Wilson Quotes
On how previous starts prepared him for tonight’s contest: “It prepared me a lot. I could get my pitch count up so I could get used to throwing that many pitches.”
Louisiana Relief Pitcher Matt Plitt Quotes
On what Coach Robichaux told him when he entered in relief: “What he tells me every single time – attack them.”
On how he approached the critical at bat in 8th inning with two outs and two runners on base: “I just got a little over excited and had the ball run away from me a little bit. Like I said before the position players were able to get me to calm down and get me through the inning. All of them did. Whether it was one-by-one or all of them coming together it didn’t matter. ”
2014 Lafayette Regional All-Tournament Team
1B Ryan Muno, San Diego State
2B Jace Conrad, Louisiana
SS Blake Trahan, Louisiana
3B Ryan Leonards, Louisiana
OF C.T. Bradford, Mississippi State
OF Seth Harrison, Louisiana
OF Charles Tillery, Jackson State
C Michael Strentz, Louisiana
DH Brett Pirtle, Mississippi State
P Vincent Anthonia, Jackson State
P Jonathan Holder, Mississippi State
Most Outstanding Player: Jace Conrad, Louisiana