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Softball: Cajuns handle Texas in Regional winner’s-bracket game

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 21, 2016



Shellie Landry rounds first after hitting a home run in UL’s 9-1 NCAA Regional win over Texas on Saturday.(Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/THE ADVERTISER)


PHOTO GALLERY: Cajuns Softball vs. Texas Photos


Even going through the winner’s bracket isn’t always easy.

On Saturday, however, the No. 9 UL softball team was especially happy to take care of business and avoid further play on the same day in order to stay alive in the NCAA Lafayette Regional.

That’s especially the case for starting pitcher Alex Stewart, who after throwing a shutout through 6.2 innings in an eventual 9-1 win over No. 25 Texas on a particularly hot and humid day at Lamson Park was quit thrilled to not have to be working a second game Saturday.

“I’m glad,” Stewart said. “I can go home in AC and lay down.”

The 45-7 Cajuns, No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament, were able to able to rest and await the outcome of Saturday’s ensuing games, which had No. 16 Texas A&M beating Boston University 6-0 in one loser’s-bracket game followed by Texas A&M beating Texas 9-3 in the next.

That sets up things for Sunday, when UL will play Texas A&M (38-19) at 3:30 p.m.

If the Cajuns win that one, they head to their fifth straight Super Regional. If not, an if-necessary game follows to determine which club advances.

“It’s nice,” Cajuns left fielder Shellie Landry said of beating Texas and staying in the winner’s bracket on the heels of Friday’s 9-5 win over Boston University. “It’s a relief.

“But you have to get the job done in order to be in the position that we’re in,” she added, “so we did a good job today in that.”

Landry had a key early home run, but it was Aleah Craighton’s RBI single that scored leadoff hitter Haley Hayden, who had singled herself, and sent UL to the bottom of the first up 1-0.

Texas stranded two runners in the first and one in the second, which ended with a wacky 7-2-4 putout as the Longhorns declined to challenge Landry’s arm by sending their lead runner home from third, but Kelli Hanzel was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

With Hayden on base after walking in the third, Landry put the Cajuns ahead 3-0 with a two-run homer to left that just barely made it over the wall.

It was the 100th homer of the season for UL, marking its second straight year with at least 100.

“I honestly thought it was gonna hit the corner,” Landry said. “But I was running as hard as I could, whether it was gonna go over or not.”

The Sun Belt Conference-champion Cajuns added to their lead in the fourth, when DJ Sanders’ bases-loaded single through the left side scored pinch-runner Kendall Smith with one out.

UL left the bases loaded following a popup and a flyball out to right.

But the Cajuns tacked on a few more in the sixth, first getting two when Lexi Elkins doubled with a shot just past the glove of centerfielder Lindsey Stephens — who had robbed her with a diving catch in the first — to score Hayden and pinch-runner Kassidy Zeringue.

Kelsey Vincent followed with a single that scored Elkins, making it 7-0.

Landry picked up another RBI with a single in the top of seventh, and a same-play throwing error gave UL a cushy lead at 9-0 going to the bottom of the final inning.

Kassidy Zeringue slides into home ahead of the throw

Kassidy Zeringue slides into home ahead of the throw as the Cajuns beat Texas 9-1 on the second day of NCAA Lafayette Regional. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/THE ADVERTISER)

“The hitters are locked in right now,” Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said after a 13-hit outing.

Stephens spoiled Stewart’s shutout bit with a two-out solo homer in the bottom of the seventh, but two batters later the Cajuns — who beat Boston University 9-5 with nine hits on Friday in their Regional opener — had their Regional title-round ticket punched.

“It’s awesome that our hitters can put up those kinds of numbers,” Stewart said. “My mindset doesn’t change, but it’s nice to know that we have plenty of runs.”

Even after rolling against Texas, however, Lotief is taking nothing for granted.

He was reminded the hard way last year that opening 2-0 presents no guarantees, as the Cajuns beat Weber State 11-0 and No. 18 Baylor 3-1, then lost 6-2 to Baylor before winning 9-1 in an if-necessary game.

“There’s more script to be written,” Lotief said. “The kids have the want-to, and they’re locked in, and they’re ready to go and compete. But there’s some real drama sitting in front of us.

“We know this thing’s only halfway done, so there’s no celebrating; there’s no sitting here talking about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” he added. “There’s none of that stuff. You’ve got to be workmanlike. It’s just, ‘OK, it’s another game, and now it’s over.’”

Shellie Landry stands on base as her teammates cheer

Shellie Landry stands on base as her teammates cheer during Saturday’s 9-1 Regional win over Texas. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/THE ADVERTISER)


At Lamson Park

Friday’s Games

Game 1: Texas 5, Texas A&M 0

Game 2: UL 9, Boston University 5

Saturday’s Games

Game 3: UL 9, Texas 1

Game 4: Texas A&M 6, Boston University 0

Game 5: Texas A&M 9, Texas 3

Sunday’s Games

Game 6: UL vs. Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m.

Game 7 (if necessary), 6 p.m.