Softball: Cajun softball not panicking after UK loss
Chad Washington, The Advertiser, May 30, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY – Even with the season in the balance, the UL softball team is taking its Thursday night loss as a lesson learned instead of a reason to panic.
The Ragin’ Cajuns admitted that the 4-1 loss to Kentucky to open the NCAA Women’s College World Series wasn’t their best game. In fact, some players said it was their worst performance of the season. UL is hoping Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. elimination game against Oklahoma will give the Cajuns a chance to not only fight out of the winner’s bracket, but to say, lesson learned.
“Throughout the whole season, we just had to learn from every experience that we go through and yesterday gave us another opportunity for us to learn and grow,” senior second baseman Natalie Fernandez said. “And from now on, we have to just keep trusting the process and learn from it.”
After being held to only one hit by Kentucky pitcher Kelsey Nunley, the Cajuns will have to bounce back from its poorest hitting performance since being no-hit by South Alabama in last year’s Sun Belt Conference tournament. UL lost that game 1-0 in eight innings, but bounced back in a big way, crushing Florida Atlantic, 15-0.
Head coach Michael Lotief hopes that the UK loss will make his team better focused and ready to play against the defending national champions.
“Everybody wants to focus on winning a championship and all that stuff, but that’s not our focus,” he said. “Our focus has been we have to get better and better every time we come out.”
Pitcher Christina Hamilton didn’t have her best stuff against Kentucky, but only gave up two earned runs on five hits in that 4-1 loss. But she did have success against Oklahoma early in the season.
Back in mid-March, Hamilton was strong in a doubleheader, going 14 innings and getting two wins in both games, 7-0 and 3-1. She held the Sooners to only one hit in the first game and four hits in the nightcap.
But this is a different Sooner team than when UL last faced them. OU has gone 32-4 since then, and has their big bat back in the lineup.
Junior first baseman Lauren Chamberlain missed those three games at Lamson Park due to a back injury. The two-time All-American is back in the lineup and her .371 average and 12 homers this season make her a tough out for anyone.
Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso feels that seeing UL early in the season gives her team the advantage.
“I want to play a team that we know, especially a team that we didn’t have success against because anytime you get a chance to rebound from that,” she said. “I think we’re a completely different team than what Lafayette saw back in March. I know this team is excited to play them.”
The Sooners come into the game frustrated after taking an early lead against Alabama and lost 6-2. Pitcher Kelsey Stevens lasted only 4.1 innings after giving up seven hits and six runs.
“For her first big outing, I know she gave up some big runs and that’s unfortunate,” Gasso said after the loss.
But while the Sooners feel that they are a different team from March, so do the Cajuns.
“I think we’re a different team and they’re a different team,” UL catcher Lexie Elkins said. “We’ve both improved as the season goes on, as any team does. We just have to play hard each pitch.”
If UL wins over OU, the Cajuns will have to face the loser of Friday’s Oregon/Florida game at 8:30 p.m.
UL at WCWS
• UL vs. Oklahoma, 1:30 p.m., Saturday (ESPN2)
• (IF UL wins) UL vs. Oregon-Florida loser, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)