Softball: Cajuns survived, advanced in NCAA softball regional
Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, May 17, 2014
It wasn’t the smoothest victory over the season for the 45-8-1 UL Ragin’ Cajun softball team on Friday before a crowd of 1,945 at Lamson Park in the NCAA Lafayette Regional.
But coach Michael Lotief is no longer concerned about style points. It’s the postseason, so it’s about one thing and his Cajuns took care of the bottom line with a 7-4 win over Texas Southern, thanks to a five-run explosion in the third inning.
With the win, UL will take on Texas at noon Saturday in the winners bracket contest. The winner of that game will need only one win out of a possible two games on Sunday to advance to the Super Regionals.
"At this point in the season it’s about surviving," Lotief said. "Doesn’t matter how you do it. It’s just getting out there and finding a way. I’m proud of my kids, I’m proud of the way they fought, and the way that they came out and stayed with it. They overcame some coaching moves that made you scratch your head. That’s what it’s all about."
UL softball beats Texas Southern in NCAA regional Chad Washington, The Advertiser
Lotief was referring to a pitching change made in the fourth inning with the Cajuns leading 6-0 at the time.
Starting pitcher Christina Hamilton had thrown three straight shutout innings, before being relieved by Jordan Wallace, who was trying to recapture the form that saw her hurl three consecutive shutouts during NCAA Regional play last May.
Instead, the strike zone continued to elude Wallace’s grasp and Hamilton was re-entered the game to finish out the win.
"This whole tournament is going to be about making decisions and navigating through these games and we got the momentum," Lotife said. "I decided to make a pitching change and went right back to it. Sometimes when you’ve got the momentum, you’ve got to keep it. I put Wallace in a tough situation and I put the team in a tough situation. Like I said, I’m proud of them."
By the game’s end, Hamilton improved to 25-2, allowing five hits, three walks and striking out four in 6.2 innings.
"Christina is our kid that has the command," Lotief said. "When you get into the regionals, super regionals and the World Series you have to pitch strikes. She’s proven over the course of the season that she’s going to do it."
Getting it done at the plate these days are outfielders Shellie Landry and Shelbi Redfearn. Landry went first in Friday’s win, leading off the second with a long home run to left that nearly cleared the seats.
"It felt pretty good," Landry said. "I was just trying to get the inning started so we could get some runners and get on board."
Landry was 2-for-3 on the day.
"It’s all about your mindset and if you believe in yourself anything can happen, so I just step in the box, pretty confident and think that no one is going to beat me," Landry added.
The came the big five-run third inning. Corin Voinche’ and Natalie Fernandez led off with singles, but then two force outs seem to have the frame headed to frustration for the Cajuns. Instead, Samantha Walsh delivered an RBI single and Landry walked to set up Redfearn’s crucial three-run homer to left.
"We worked hard in practice and we go out there and try to win one pitch at a time and we just focus on the goal and the plate," Redfearn said.
Voinche’ was in the middle of UL’s final score as well, coming through with an RBI single up the middle in the fifth to end the day 2-for-2 with an RBI.
"It’s a fun atmosphere to play in," Voinche’ said. "The big crowd definitely helps us out. The mindset at the plate was just try to get on base and try to make things happen for my team."
Texas Southern got all four of its RBIs out of the bottom of the lineup.
"Texas Southern have proven why they are here," Lotief said. "I think they are a worthy opponent. It’s going to be about kids getting out there and fighting and competing. The seeds don’t mean anything. It’s about surviving and advancing and it’s about trusting and believing and I think that’s what our teams did today."