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Softball: Cajuns claim two comeback wins

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, Feb. 12, 2017

The day before, Kansas transfer Danielle Chavez was asked if she was ready for the electric atmosphere at Lamson Park, which is different than most softball parks around the country.
In the seventh inning of UL’s first game Saturday at the 31st Annual Louisiana Classics, Chavez answered that question.
With two outs and two runners in scoring position and the No. 11-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns trailing 3-2, Chavez calmly grounded a two-run single up the middle to keep UL undefeated in the early going with a dramatic 4-3 victory over DePaul.
The Cajuns had to get back off the deck in the second game as well, overcoming an early 3-0 deficit with six runs in the last two innings for a 7-4 win over Ball State to improve to 4-0 on the season.
“I was a little nervous,” Chavez said. “I was just trying to get a base hit, not anything too too big. Nothing extra, just a single.”
The approach worked like a charm. The left-handed hitter simply bounced the two-run single up the middle to begin the eruption.
“It was awesome,” Chavez said. “The fans going crazy and all of my teammates coming out of the dugout.
“The atmosphere is different here, but I’m getting into the swing of things.”
In the nightcap, Kara Gremillion’s single spurred the four-run sixth and D.J. Sanders delivered her first big hit of the season with a two-run homer in the seventh for insurance.
“We still don’t have any flow to the lineup yet, but the kids are fighting hard,” UL coach Michael Lotief said. “They just kept fighting back. They didn’t shut down in either game.”
She didn’t get the game-winning hit like Chavez or some off the bench to shine in the circle as a pitcher, but no one played a bigger role in UL’s two wins Saturday than junior leftfielder Kelli Martinez.
In the first game, it was Martinez that led off the seventh with a single and scored the first of three runs in the 4-3 come-from-behind win. She went 2-for-3 for the game.
Then, in the second game, Martinez reached with one out in the fifth on a hard shot to shortstop that was ruled an error and scored UL’s first run of the game.
One inning later, she singled home two runs and later scored a run herself in the Cajuns’ four-run sixth in that comeback win.
“Kelli is such a sparkplug for us,” Lotief said. “She can be the key to this offense, if she can keep getting on and turning over the lineup.”
The other candidate for unsung hero is Haley Hayden. Steady as always, Hayden was 2-for-4 with an RBI in the nightcap after going 1-for-3 with an RBI in the first game.
The challenge of an early-season tournament like this weekend where UL has six games to play is that’s a lot of innings to throw this early in the season. It took four pitchers to get the staff through Saturday’s two wins.
In the first game, red-shirt freshman Summer Ellyson gave up a run on four hits with one walk and three strikeouts 
in four innings.
“I thought Summer pitched the ball well,” Lotief said. “With our offense being so helter skelter right now, the pitchers are under a lot of pressure.”
Alex Stewart finished off the first game with three innings of relief to improve to 2-0 on the season.
The nightcap’s starter, Kylee Jo Trahan, just didn’t have it, giving up two home runs and three runs in the second inning. In came senior right-hander Macey Smith to save the day.
All Smith did was throw 80 pitches over 5.1 innings, allowing no earned runs on three hits, two walks and struck out four to earn her first victory of the season.
“I don’t think it was more difficult (in relief),” Smith said. “I’m always ready to pitch. We’re always preparing for every situation. I think we’re a team of fighters. We always have each other’s backs.”
Smith’s performance certainly puts a smile on Lotief’s face.
“I’m very happy for her,” he said. “She cherishes those opportunities, because she knows she’s not going to get a lot of innings. But that doesn’t deter her. She’s the hardest worker on the staff and she pushes the other ones. She’s the momma of the staff.”
Now 4-0 on the young season, the Cajuns will now play a doubleheader against Southern Mississippi on Sunday. It’s the third game of a four-game schedule Sunday, slated to begin at 1:30, followed by a game scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.
Lotief said he’ll likely start Stewart in one of the games and freshman Alyssa Denham in the other.
Click here for photos of the Louisiana Classics Softball:
31st annual La. Classics Schedule
Friday’s Games
Ball State 5, DePaul 2
USM 8, Ball State 1
UL 9, DePaul 1
UL 9, Iowa State 1
Saturday’s Games
DePaul 3, Iowa State 2
Iowa State 6, USM 4
 UL 4, DePaul 3
UL 7, Ball State 4
USM vs. Ball State
Sunday’s Games
9 a.m. – Ball State vs. Iowa State
11:15 a.m. – DePaul vs. Iowa State
1:30 p.m. – UL vs. USM
3:30 p.m. – UL vs. USM