Cajun Bats Come Alive, Down FIU 11-3

Louisiana's Ragin'Cajuns carried the momentum from a five-run first inning through the game to an 11-3 victory over FIU on the first day of the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship.

The Cajuns blasted the Golden Panthers' pitching staff for 14 hits Wednesday morning at Riddle-Pace Field. Scott Hawkins and Les Smith led the charge at the plate for UL. Hawkins went 3-for-5 with three RBI while Smith added a 2-for-4 performance with two RBI.

"This last weekend we started swinging the bat better as a team, trying to close up the wholes in our lineup" Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. "And I think our hitters did an exceptional job today and all weekend leading into here. Our confidence is good right now as hitters."

FIU recorded four errors in the contest, and the Cajuns exploited every mistake. The errors proved costly for the Golden Panthers as they resulted in three runs.

Zach Osborne delivered an impressive complete-game performance on the mound to earn the win for Louisiana. The junior held the Golden Panthers to just three runs, scattering seven hits with seven strikeouts. FIU starter Scott Rembisz fanned seven batters and walked only two, but he gave up 10 hits and eight runs—five earned—to take the loss.

The Cajuns exploded in the opening frame as the first five batters all reached base—four on hits—and all five crossed home plate to light up the scoreboard. Matt Goulas led off the game with a double, and Alex Fuselier followed with a bunt single. Smith connected on a hit through the gap between second and third to bring Goulas home and tally the contest's first run.

And Louisiana continued to roll. The Cajuns cashed in on an FIU error as the Golden Panthers attempted to throw Fuselier out at third, but the toss missed and Fuselier extended the lead. The offensive onslaught was capped by a three-run homer from Hawkins over the right field wall.

The Golden Panthers countered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first inning, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep FIU in the game. Tyler Townsend and Tim Jobe both picked up RBI singles for the Golden Panthers.

Both pitchers seemed to settle into a rhythm after the rocky first inning. The Cajuns touched Rembisz for another run in the second, but Rembisz struck out the side to limit the damage and followed it with a 1-2-3 third inning. Osborne also found his stride on the mound, holding the Golden Panthers scoreless and giving up just two hits through the next five innings.

"Once we got all the jitters out I just tried my best to pitch to contact, and get a bunch of ground balls," Osborne said. "I just tried to have quick innings so I could go the distance."

The Cajuns put the game out of reach when they capitalized on the second FIU error, scoring two runs to take an 8-2 advantage. A sharp ground ball from Tyler Benzel went straight through the legs of Golden Panthers third baseman Raiko Alfonso to account for the two-run error.

The final three innings were highlighted by back-to-back triples from Kyle Bostick and Benzel, and Chad Keefer added the exclamation point with a solo shot that soared clear over the scoreboard in right field.

The Cajuns will advance to play at 4 p.m. on Thursday against the winner of Wednesday's matchup between top-seeded Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic. FIU falls into the consolation bracket, where the Golden Panthers will fight to stay alive and play their way back into the championship round. They will return to action Thursday at 9 a.m.

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