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Softball: Cajuns Sun Belt Champs, Again

Softball: Cajuns Sun Belt Champs, Again

Softball: Cajuns Sun Belt Champs, Again

Matt Hebert, Sports Information –

MIAMI – After seven years of competition in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns softball team remains perfect in tournament play and the only champion the league has ever known.

The 15th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns (48-10) posted a 7-4 victory over Florida International here Saturday afternoon at FIU’s University Park Softball Complex to claim the program’s seventh straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship in as many seasons that the tournament has been held.

Redshirt freshman catcher Jessica Lemoine singled home the go-ahead runs in the third inning and Sun Belt Pitcher Ashley Kirchberg tossed two scoreless innings to collect the save as UL upped its all-time record in the tournament to 22-0.

Lemoine led the charge going 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI. She was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after leading the team in hits (4), RBI (3) and batting average (.400) during tournament play.

Since the Sun Belt Conference does not have an automatic berth, the Ragin’ Cajuns will now await word on a possible NCAA Regional assignment for next weekend. The 2006 NCAA Softball Selection Show will be aired live on ESPNews beginning at 2:30 p.m. (CDT) on Sunday, May 14, where the Cajuns hope to receive their 16th NCAA Regionals bid in the last 17 years and sixth straight under co-head coaches Stefni and Michael Lotief.

The win was the Ragin’ Cajuns seventh straight overall dating back to Sunday, April 30.

UL upped its all-time series lead over FIU to 28-4 and improved to 15-3 all-time in Miami.

The Cajuns fell behind 2-0 in the first inning when two errors helped the Golden Panthers score.

The Cajuns got one run back in the top of the second inning when Jessica Lemoine scored on a Sarah Belanger wild pitch. The catalyst of the rally was back-to-back, one-out singles by Tara Hamilton and Lemoine. Karli Hubbard reached base on an infield single to load the bases. Two batters later Belanger threw the wild pitch to put UL on the board.

The Cajuns loaded up the bases again in the third inning. Lacey Berutcci led off with a walk which was followed by a single from Ashley Evans. After Holly Tankersley fouled out for the first out Codi Runyan drew a walk to give UL three baserunners.

Hamilton skied a fly ball into left field, but it was too shallow to allow Bertucci to tag up.

Lemoine picked up Hamilton and her teammates when she drilled a single down the left field line that plated Bertucci and Evans with the go-ahead runs to put UL in front 3-2.

Louisiana-Lafayette upped its advantage to 7-2 in the fourth inning when three hits scored four additional runs off FIU reliever Kerri Houck.

Deserea Griffin was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Danyele Gomez walked. Bertucci then hit a sharp grounder past FIU third baseman Samantha Card that allowed Griffin to round third and score and give the Cajuns a 4-2 edge.

The rest of the damage was done with two outs. Gomez and Bertucci moved into scoring position on a Tankersley grounder to second base and would score on the next at bat when Runyan collected her first hit of the tournament.

Runyan’s hit drove home two more runs to push the lead to 6-2 and Lemoine’s third hit of the game brought home scored Runyan who had moved to second base on a Hamilton walk.

Another two-error inning aided the Golden Panthers in the fifth inning. FIU scratched for two more runs to trim the lead to 7-4.

Deomni Murray led off with a single back up the middle. Tracey Deleon laid down a bunt and beat out the throw. The throw was high and out of the reach of Bertucci at first base allowing Murray to move to third base. Murray scored when Deleon stole second and no one was covering second base and Lemoine’s throw sailed deep into center field.

Card doubled down the right field line, lining a shot off the glove of Bertucci to score Deleon and pull the Golden Panthers within three runs.

Belanger was re-entered in the pitching circle to start the fifth and she kept the Cajuns off the scoreboard the rest of the game.

FIU started the sixth inning with a single into right field by Lauren Spiers. Looking to prevent a rally by the hosts UL replaced starting pitcher Krystal Lewallen with Kirchberg.

Kirchberg retired the three hitters she faced in order to end the sixth inning.

Kirchberg would get Jennifer Powell to foul out to Hamilton at third base for the first out in the seventh inning and then caught Tabitha Embry looking for a strikeout to record the second out. After a Kim Rodriguez single Kirchberg got Card to pop up to Runyan at shortstop for the final out.

Lewallen picked up the win to improve her season record to 24-8. Kirchberg collected the team’s first save of the season.

No. 15 Louisiana-Lafayette will now begin preparations for the possible NCAA Regionals berth. NCAA Regionals will be held Friday-Sunday, May 19-21 at sites which will be announced in Sunday’s selection show.


#15 Louisiana-Lafayette 7,
Fla. International 4
(May 13, 2006 at
Miami, Fla.)
Louisiana-Lafayette. 012 400 0 – 7 11 5 (48-10)

Fla. International.. 200 020 0 – 4 9 0 (30-28)
Pitchers: Louisiana-Lafayette – Lewallen; Kirchberg(6).
Fla. International – Belanger; Houck(6)
Win-Lewallen(24-8) Save-Kirchberg(1) Loss-Belanger(14-11) T-2:24

Game notes:
Championship game of 2006 Sun Belt Conference Tournament
Lewallen faced 1 batter in the 6th