Softball: Cajuns over South Alabama in Winner’s Bracket Finals, 6-3
SAN MARCOS, Texas – Powered by five home runs the 10th-ranked and top-seeded Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns softball team advanced to Saturday’s championship game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a 6-3 win over 23rd-ranked and No. 2 seed South Alabama here Friday afternoon at Bobcat Softball Stadium.
Louisiana (39-8) will face the winner of Friday evening’s South Alabama-Georgia State elimination game in Saturday’s championship game at 1 p.m. The winner receives the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
The five home runs increased the season total to 106, surpassing the 102 hit by the 2006 team for the school record. DJ Sanders‘ solo home run in the second inning landed the record.
Christina Hamilton (11-2) settled in and found her command after South Alabama (36-11) scored twice in the first inning aided by three walks and a hit by pitch. Only three Jaguars, of the 18 that came to bat, would reach base from the second through sixth inning while the Cajuns steadily built their lead.
Hamilton limited USA to four hits in seven innings and surrendered only one through the first four frames. After the two-run first, she kept the Jaguars scoreless through the sixth inning.
"I was proud of the performance of the entire team today," Louisiana softball associate head coach T.J. Hubbard said. "Christina did a great job bouncing back after the first inning and commanded the rest of the game from that point forward.
"On offense, in every at bat, I felt we had a chance to score runs," Hubbard added. "Those kids were locked in and engaged, swung at good pitches and barreled up a lot as well."
Haley Hayden homered to lead off the Cajuns first at bat of the game, giving Louisiana a quick answer to the Jaguars two-spot in the top of the first. Sanders’ home run in the second inning drew the Cajuns even.
"That one swing (Hayden) helped us get some of the momentum back," Hubbard remarked. "Maybe not all the momentum at that point, but it definitely changed the tempo of the game."
Lexie Elkins and Samantha Walsh, who both finished 2-for-3 at the plate to lead the Cajuns in hits, homered back-to-back in the fifth inning to break the 2-2 tie. For Elkins, it was her 29th home run of the season moving her within one of Danyele Gomez’s single-season record 30 hit in 2006.
Pinch hitter Sara Corbello launched her first home run of the season in the sixth inning to give Hamilton a four-run cushion, 6-2, heading into the seventh inning.
Corbello’s home run proved key as the Jaguars picked up their third run of the game on a Chole Rathburn RBI double in the seventh and had runners at second and third base before Elkins recorded the final out on a pop foul off the bat of Kaityln Griffith.
Louisiana picked up its 50th all-time Sun Belt Tournament victory (50-7 record) and advanced to the championship game for the 14th-time in the 16-year history of the event.
Friday’s meeting was the sixth between the Cajuns and Jaguars in the Sun Belt Tournament with Louisiana’s win evening the record in matchups in the event at 3-3.
DIAMOND NOTES: Christina Hamilton picked up her second win of the season over South Alabama (won 9-3 on March 7 in Mobile)…The Cajuns improved to 6-6 vs. ranked foes…Louisiana posted its 27th game with multiple home runs and has posted multiple home runs in eight of the last 10 games dating back to April 18…The Ragin’ Cajuns have hit nine home runs through two games in the Sun Belt Tournament…The Cajuns have hit 38 home runs in the last 10 games…Lexie Elkins‘ two RBI upped her season total to 75, a new career-high surpassing her 74 RBI in 2014…Aleah Craighton extended her hitting streak to seven games with a single in the second inning…Haley Hayden‘s home run in the first inning marked the fourth time this season she’s led off with a home run in the Cajuns’ first at bat (Feb. 20 vs. Iowa, Feb. 22 vs. McNeese, Mar. 29 at Texas State, May 8 vs. South Alabama)…With the home run, Haley Hayden reached 50 RBI and 60 runs scored for the second straight season…Louisiana scored in four of its six at bats and have now scored at least one run in 10 of 12 at bats in the Sun Belt Tournament…The Cajuns played error-free for the fifth straight game and 26th time in 47 games…Louisiana has committed only 28 errors through 1,135 chances (861 PO, 246 A, 28 E) in 47 games played…With her solo home run in the fifth inning, Samantha Walsh reached 40 RBI for the first time in her career.
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
Sports Information Assistant
Office: (337) 482-6329
Cell: (337) 288-6023