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Softball: Cajuns return to Super Regionals

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, May 18, 2015


PHOTO GALLERY: NCAA Softball Regional: UL vs. Baylor Sunday

VIDEO: Lotief Jokes About Auburn Coach and Talks Super Regional

VIDEO: UL’s Jordan Wallace Talks About Regional Win and Upcoming Super Regional

VIDEO: Lotief Praises Team, Addresses Plans to Attend Super Regional



As it turned out, both teams got what they wanted … sort of.

The visiting No. 15-ranked Baylor Bears finally ended their six-game losing streak to the No. 11-ranked UL Ragin’ Cajuns.

And the Cajuns began making their plans to visit the Auburn Tigers in the Super Regionals next weekend by rebounding from a 6-2 loss to Baylor late Sunday evening with a 9-1 victory at Lamson Park to claim the 2015 NCAA Lafayette Regional championship.

It will be UL’s sixth regional title in the last eight seasons. The Cajuns (42-10) will open the Super Regional at 1 p.m. Friday at Auburn on ESPNU.

"This never gets old," UL coach Michael Lotief said. "This isn’t an easy thing to do. If we start to take it for granted, shame on us.

"I’m grateful for the sacrifices the kids have made."

The Bears certainly didn’t make it easy, though. It appeared the Cajuns might run their NCAA Regional winning streak to 12 straight games earlier Sunday evening when they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in support of UL starter Christina Hamilton.

But the Bears stayed determined. After defeating Mississippi State 2-0 to stay alive earlier Sunday, the Bears rallied for two in the third on a two-run Sarah Smith triple, and then got a two-run homer from Shelby Friudenberg in the fifth to get the lead for good.

That forced the Cajuns to have to play the dreaded "if necessary" game, which amazingly would be a tripleheader for Baylor. Bears’ ace Heather Stearns, who threw 131 pitches in beating the Cajuns 6-2 earlier Sunday, tried to go ahead in the nightcap.

It would prove to be a little too much to ask on the road against a top-notch hitting lineup. She would only last three-plus innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on four hits, four walks and one strikeout.

"I had the same mindset for the second game," said Stearns, who threw 75 pitches in the second game. "I just tried to use all of my pitches, use different zones and not throw the same pitches to one hitter. I threw a lot of change-ups.

"I got a little worn out toward the middle (of second game)."

The Cajuns would get a Leandra Maly single and two walks to loaded the bases. That set up Aleah Craighton’s sacrifice fly to center and then a Kelli Martinez RBI ground out for a quick 2-0 lead.

Lexie Elkins then did her part in the third, officially setting the school’s new record for homers in a single season at 31 with long homer to leftcenter for a 3-0 lead.

The Cajuns finally got Stearns out for good after lead-off walks to open the fourth. A Bears’ throwing error and an Elkins sacrifice fly chased those two insurance runs home for a 5-0.

Then it got fun in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Sara Corbello led off with a home run to left. After Haley Hayden doubled and Elkins walked, Samantha Walsh ended it with a three-run home run to right field.

"She was throwing all of her pitches outside and my teammates told me they were flat," Walsh said. "I wasn’t seeing the ball well all weekend, so I got on top of the plate, so I could see it better. I just kind of closed my eyes."

All of that run support was more than enough for Jordan Wallace, who wasn’t dealing with the fatigue that Stearns was. It show with a stellar outing, giving up just one run on five hits with four walks and five strikeouts.

"(During first game) I was saying, ‘Coach Mike put me in, Coach Mike put me in,’" Wallace laughed. "But after a while, I started focusing on the next game. It was all or nothing, so I just wanted to play free."

Wallace’s effort was aided greatly by two double plays that helped keep Baylor’s offense off the board.

The first one came in the third with UL only leading 2-0 at the time. Shellie Landry gunned down a runner at the plate on a potential sacrifice fly situation to end the inning.

"It’s something we practice all the time," Landry said. "You go through the motions (in practice). It’s a good feeling (when it works). It’s a hit a home-run-kind-of-a-feeling."

The second one was a critical 1-2-3 double play to end a bases-loaded jam with Friudenberg at the plate.

"Those were both huge momentum-changing plays," Lotief said.