BATON ROUGE, La. -- Behind Luke Plucheck’s heroics, the Bearkats won their opening game of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, 4-2, over Louisiana-Lafayette. The first round win is the first for the Kats since beating No. 1 Miami in Austin in 1996.
Plucheck opened the scoring by blasting his ninth home run of the season to lead off the second inning. After the Ragin’ Cajuns had tied the game, 2-2, in the sixth Plucheck ripped a double down the left field line to drive in what would be the game winning runs.
Then in the bottom of the ninth, with a runner on first, ULL’s leading hitter Dex Kjerstad crushed a ball to left field that Plucheck jumped and caught against the wall for the second out.
“I thought that was a really good ballgame. Both teams left some guys out there but both teams competed well,” said Bearkat head coach David Pierce. “Cody (Dickson) competed tonight. I wouldn’t say it was his best outing but he gave us a chance. Alan Scott was just lights out tonight. Luke (Plucheck) had a tremendous night. That’s a great win for us and we’re ready to get some rest and move on to tomorrow night.”
Sam Houston (38-20) advances to play regional host LSU Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium. The two teams have never met.
Starter Cody Dickson didn’t have his best stuff but managed to hold the Cajuns to just three hits in 5 2/3 innings. The junior lefthander struggled with his command and hit four batters in the game. Both ULL runs were scored after a hit batter was driven in.
“It wasn’t the greatest outing I’ve ever had,” said Dickson. “In the end we came out with a win. It was a great team win and we’re all very excited about the next step.”
Alan Scott would replace Dickson in the sixth inning with two outs and two runners on. Scott got a strikeout to end the inning and would only allow one hit the rest of the way. The sophomore lefty was extremely effective for the final 3 1/3 innings.
The Kats would tack on another run in the second inning after a pair of two-out walks from right fielder Ryan O’Hearn and second baseman Ryan Farney. First baseman Jessie Plumlee hit a line drive that was dropped by the center fielder allowing O’Hearn to score unearned.
The Kats looked to add to their lead in the in the third inning after third baseman Kevin Miller walked. Shortstop Carter Burgess doubled down the left field line but Miller was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first.
Louisiana-Lafayette got their first run in the bottom of the third. Dickson hit second baseman Jace Conrad to lead off the frame. He advanced to second base on a wild pitch and was sacrificed over to third. Third baseman Tyler Girouard got the run home with an RBI-groundout.
Dickson hadn’t allowed a hit until the fifth inning when Kjerstad led off with a single up the middle. The only other hits he would allow were the two singles in the sixth.
Lead-off singles in the top of the sixth provided a golden opportunity for Sam Houston to add to their 2-1 lead. Louisiana-Lafayette made a pitching change and the Bearkats sent pinch hitter Wyatt Powell to the plate to answer. Powell attempted to sacrifice the runners over but the lead runner was cut down at third. O’Hearn then hit into an inning-ending double play.
Dickson hit his fourth batter of the game to lead off the sixth inning and it proved to be costly. With two outs in the inning, catcher Michael Strentz hit a liner to third base that Miller was able to just get the tip of his glove on.
The play saved a run from scoring but extended the inning with runners on second and third. The next batter would single just under Farney’s glove to chase Dickson from the game.
As they had done most of the season, Sam Houston answered right back in the next frame. After a strikeout by Farney to lead off, Plumlee legged out a double and center fielder Colt Atwood singled to put runners on the corners.
After a groundout by catcher Anthony Azar, Miller was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Plucheck came through with the go-ahead double down the line.
Junior lefthander Caleb Smith is slated to be on the mound against the SEC’s Pitcher of the Year Aaron Nola.