Jackson State Stuns #1 Cajuns, 1-0
Compared to what Jackson State has been through in the last few weeks, facing the #1 team in the country was not a daunting task.
And, the Tigers showed it on the field Friday night.
Jackson State, who lost all their uniforms, equipment and many of their personal effects in a bus fire earlier this month, made a fourth inning run stand up and shocked the #6 national seed and #1 ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns 1-0 before 3,581 fans at M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field, sending the Cajuns into an elimination game Saturday at 1pm.
The Cajuns (53-8) will face San Diego State, who lost to #2 seed Mississippi State 5-2 in the regional's first game Friday afternoon.
The Cajuns, who had not lost a game to a left handed starter all season, couldn't solve Vincent Anthonia (4-0), the 5-7 sophomore from Curacao who scattered five hits and stranded seven Cajuns' base runners in six innings of work.
Melvin Rodriguez' clutch two out single up the middle in the fourth inning plated Desmond Russell, who had a one out bloop double to left, with the game's only run. The softly hit ball by Russell landed just inside the left field line and was the only extra base hit for either team.
Clutch hitting was something that eluded Louisiana, who was shut out for the first time this season. The Cajuns stranded eleven base runners in the game.
The Cajuns got a pair of hits with two out in the first but came up empty when Greg Davis popped up. They got a leadoff single from Blake Trahan, who had three hits in the contest, but the Cajuns' shortstop couldn't get past second base. The Cajuns drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, but Caleb Adams got no further. In the fifth, Trahan singled with one out and Seth Harrison walked with two out, but Jace Conrad flied out to end the threat. It was more of the same in the sixth as the Cajuns stranded yet another base runner.
But the real frustration for the Cajuns came in the seventh and eighth innings.
Trahan singed off reliever Alexander Juday with one out in the seventh inning, but was caught between first and second base when Jackson State pitched out with Ryan Leonards at the plate. Leonards wound up getting a hit and Harrison reached on Juday's error. But instead of the bases loaded and one out, there were two on and two out. Conrad's fly ball ended the inning.
The Cajuns' best chance came in the eighth when Adams walked for the third time and pinch hitter Tyler Girouard had a bunt single that stayed just inside the first base line. Chase Compton bunted the runners to second and third, but Michael Strentz popped to shallow center and pinch hitter Kyle Clement struck out to end the final UL threat.
Juday worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save of the season.
Austin Robichaux (7-3) took the hard luck loss, allowing just four hits and one run in eight innings of work. He hit three batters, but didn't walk a man and struck out six. He was relieved by Matt Plitt in the ninth after a hit batsman and a single. Plitt struck out Jose Cruz and got Bryce Taylor to line into a double play to end the Tigers' final threat. Robichaux threw 99 pitches in the contest.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Tigers (32-23) since their mishap on I-20 near Birmingham earlier this month when their team bus caught fire. The team managed to get off the bus before it was engulfed in flames. But JSU lost their uniforms, all their equipment, clothing and most personal effects, including identification and car keys just one week before the SWAC tournament. Ole Miss and Mississippi State donated some equipment and the team spent the last two days breaking in new gloves before sweeping through their conference tournament as the #8 seed, and securing the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The win was the first ever in NCAA tournament play for Jackson State, who won a 1-0 game for the first time since 1981 according to the Advertiser's Tim Buckley. The Cajuns had been 21-0 when holding opponents to two runs or less.
In order for the Cajuns to keep their season alive, they'll have to win four straight games over the next three days, beginning tomorrow against the Aztecs, who managed just three hits in their loss to the Bulldogs in the first game of the day.
Airtime will be 12:35 tomorrow on KPEL 96.5 FM.