home sitesearch sitemap contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Softball: Cardiac Cajuns keep kicking

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, May 22, 2016



Ragin’ Cajuns’ pitcher Alex Stewart high fives teammates after getting out of the sixth inning without giving up a run in the Cajuns’ 9-8 victory over Texas A&M in the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Softball Lafayette Regional at Lamson Park May 22, 2016. (Photo: LEE CELANO/THE ADVERTISER)


UL advances to fifth straight Super Regional with dramatic 9-8 comeback win


PHOTO GALLERY: Cajuns Come Back to Defeat Texas A&M to Winn NCAA Regional

VIDEO: Ragin’ Cajuns’ Coach Lotief and Players Speak After Big Win 


The team that hits home runs like nobody else came through with the biggest bombs of the season when it needed it the most.

On the verge of having to play an ‘if necessary’ game with their season on the line, a pair of sensational sophomore sluggers instead powered the No. 14-seeded UL Ragin’ Cajuns to a dramatic 9-8 come-from-behind victory in nine innings over Texas A&M on Sunday in front of 2,130 fans at Lamson Park to move on to the Super Regional round.

"That’s who we are," UL coach Michael Lotief said of his Cajuns pounding out four crucial homers in the win. "That’s how this team plays. That’s our M.O. It’s how we compete."

The thrilling win – that lasted 3 hours and 43 minutes – propelled the Cajuns (46-7) into a Thursday Super Regional matchup with No. 3-seeded Oklahoma in Norman. It is the fifth straight Super Regional appearance for the Cajuns and the seventh in the past nine seasons.

Game one is 8 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2, game two is 6 p.m. Friday on ESPN2 with a potential ‘if necessary’ game at 9 p.m.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, has been to seven straight Super Regionals and is currently riding a 25-game winning streak after eliminating Ole Miss on Sunday.

First, it was true sophomore shortstop DJ Sanders striking the big blow to keep the Cajuns kicking. Trailing 8-6 with one out in the top of the seventh, Sanders absolutely crushed the first pitch she saw way over the centerfield fence for a game-tying two-run home run.

"I wasn’t looking for a certain pitch," said Sanders, who as 4-for-5 on the day with three RBIs and was a stellar 6-of-11 for the tournament. "When I got a pitch that I actually saw well, I just trusted my preparation.

"I didn’t know it was out. I knew it felt good. I realized it maybe halfway to first base."

Then to lead off the top of the ninth, red-shirt sophomore Aleah Craighton, who had doubled ahead of Sanders’ homer, smashed the game-winning home run to left,

"I was just trying to win the pitch, just find any way to get on and get something going," said Craighton, who was later put on her team’s shoulders like a conquering hero.

"I don’t like when they do it (get carried on shoulders). It’s a good feeling, but it’s not just me hitting that home run."

It was the 18th home runs of the season for both Cajun standouts. But while Sanders and Craighton stole the show late, it was a pair of seniors on Lexie Elkins and Sara Corbello providing the early power supply for UL.

Elkins hit her first home run since March 25 with a line shot to right in the first to give the Cajuns the early lead. UL would later lose that lead, but the comeback preserved the Cajuns’ record of 39-0 this season with scoring first.

After the Aggies tied it with a single tally in the first and then took a 2-1 lead with a Cali Lanphear double and Riley Sartain single in the second, Corbello ignited the four-run third for UL with a three-run home run one batter after a Sanders’ RBI single for a 5-2 lead.

That lead grew to 6-2 on Kelsey Vincent’s sacrifice fly to right in the fourth.

But the Aggies wouldn’t die … not even close.

With two outs and a runner on first in the fourth, Texas A&M’s offense simply caught fire against UL’s junior ace right-hander Alex Stewart. Kaitlyn Alderink got it going with a two-run homer, but then Ashley Walters doubled and Kristen Cuyos singled home two to tie it at 6-6.

Then in the fifth, Samantha Show led off with a homer and Alderink later delivered an RBI single to give the Aggies (39-20) an 8-6 lead.

Instead of delivering the knockout punch, however, Stewart hung tough and somehow finished the game with four shutout innings to record the rare win giving up a season-high 13 hits and eight runs with three walks and 10 strikeouts.

"We were swinging the bats really well in the middle innings." Alderink said. "After that, I just think we were pressing too hard. We were too tight. We were trying too hard to score those runs."

The Cajuns’ offense ended up pounding out 16 hits in the game, all off the starter Show. While Stewart finished with 176 pitches in the win, Show, who said afterwards that she’s never pitched in a game like Sunday’s NCAA Regional final, threw 162 in this game and 401 for the weekend.

"The game was going to be decided by the big hit," Lotief said. "It came down to who got the big hit in the biggest moments between two of the top three home run hitting teams in the country."