By William Pitts
After 14 innings of excellent pitching, questionable calls, baserunning blunders, poor fielding and brilliant fielding, the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette outlasted the Maryland Terrapins, 4-3. In so doing, they ended two streaks – their own five-game losing streak, and the Terps’ six-game winning streak.
On paper, the game should not have even come down to extras. The Cajuns outplayed the Terrapins in nearly every key statistic, out-hitting Maryland 8-7 and not committing an error against the Terps’ four. Maryland only kept up due to a series of missed opportunities by Louisiana, which led to the Cajuns racking up 14 men left on base.
Maryland fell behind in the bottom of the of the second on a two-run single by Cajuns catcher Sebastian Toro – both runs unearned. Nevertheless, Terps starter Zach Thompson persevered and kept the game close in 6 2/3 valiant innings of work. After his rough second inning, he only surrendered one more hit the rest of the way. The Terps failed to provide Thompson with any run support for the first five innings, however, as Thompson’s opposite number, Dalton Horton, retired the first 16 Maryland batters.
The balance of the game shifted in the top of the sixth, as center fielder Chris Alleyne drilled a triple to left field to score Tommy Gardiner and put Maryland on the board. Caleb Walls pushed Alleyne home with a sacrifice bunt to tie the game at two. The following inning, the Terps took a 3-2 lead, as Benjamin Cowles doubled to center to score Trevor Wright.
Maryland would survive a tense moment in the bottom of the seventh, when Toro got another single off of Thompson and advanced to third after two successful stolen bases. Thompson finally exited, and reliever Mark DiLuia prompted first baseman Handsome Monica to fly out to left to end the inning.
This led to a wild bottom of the ninth which saw John Murphy blow his first save of the season. With the bases loaded, Murphy struck home plate umpire Ray Miller in the face, and the ball bounced away from catcher Justin Vought, allowing Gavin Bourgeois to score the tying run.
Controversy erupted when Monica appeared to strike out swinging for the second out of the ninth, only for Miller to suddenly reverse the call to a foul tip. In the ensuing argument, Terps manager Rob Vaughn got himself ejected. On the very next pitch, Murphy struck Monica out a second time, rendering the issue moot.
The Terps would have fallen far sooner were it not for the efforts of Justin Vought, who saved them from extinction twice. In the tenth, he caught Todd Lott in a rundown, and in the eleventh, he tagged Jonathan Windham as he tried to score the winning run on a squeeze bunt.
But with the Terps unable to generate any offense in the extras, it was only a matter of time before their defense finally ran out of time. The Cajuns finally secured victory in the 14th, as Daniel Lahare scored on a fielding error by the very player whose double had seemingly given the Terps the win in the seventh – Benjamin Cowles.
Dalton Horton’s excellent start meant he earned credit for the win. Sean Fisher had the hard luck of being tagged with the loss, despite the winning run being unearned.