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Softball: Clutch Plays Help Fifth-Ranked Cajuns Earn Split With No. 4 Alabama


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Samantha Walsh went 2-for-4 with a solo home run and a pair of RBI and the No. 5-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns softball team withstood a pair of late scoring opportunities to earn a 2-1 victory over No. 4-ranked Alabama in the nightcap of a doubleheader on Saturday at Rhoads Stadium.
In the opener, Haylie McCleaney went 2-for-3 and scored a pair of runs while Sydney Littlejohn scattered three hits and fanned five as Alabama took a 5-1 victory.
Jordan Wallace picked up the victory in the nightcap for Louisiana (15-1) as she scattered five hits and fanned six. Leandra Maly and Haley Hayden each had singles for the Ragin’ Cajuns while Lexie Elkins and Kelli Martinez each drew a pair of walks.
The final game of the series is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday. The game can be heard in the Lafayette area on ESPN 1420 AM and can be seen on SEC Network-plus and ESPN3.
"It was two good teams going at each other," Louisiana head coach Michael Lotief said. "I thought their kid (Sydney Littlejohn) pitched incredible in game one and their freshman (Alexis Osorio) threw the ball well in game two. I thought our kid (Jordan Wallace) showed some guts in game two.
"Our hitters kept adjusting throughout the game, and so did Alabama. It was just good softball. It may not look like that to the casual fan. But when you know what’s going on with all of the adjustments being made and everything that’s being done to try to get an advantage in this game, it’s just good quality softball."
GAME 2 – Louisiana 2, Alabama 1
Walsh excelled with both her glove and her bat in the nightcap in helping Louisiana earn a split in a battle between two teams that reached the Women’s College World Series in 2014. Her solo home run Alexis Osorio (5-2) to lead off the fourth inning off erased a 1-0 lead by Alabama (14-4) before her two-out single to center in the fifth scored Hayden.
The junior third baseman also fueled Louisiana’s effort in the field as snagged a Marisa Runyon liner for an eventual inning-ending double play in the second inning before her diving grab of Leona Lafaele’s liner in the fifth kept the Crimson Tide off the bases.
"She saved us," Lotief said about Walsh. "She’s good in the heart of the lineup and can go off. I thought a lot of our kids had some quality at-bats, but never finished them off. Today, it was her turn to finish them off. She’s good. She works hard, has good hand-eye coordination and is smart. She’s a good hitter."
Wallace (6-0) struck out the side in the first inning for Louisiana and kept Alabama off the board until the third inning when Lafaele led off the frame with a triple off the glove of a diving Martinez in right-center field and scored on Chandler Dare’s sacrifice fly to left.
The Ragin’ Cajuns kept Alabama off the board in the final two innings after the Crimson Tide put their first two runners on base in each frame. Wallace issued a walk to McCleaney to lead off the sixth before a single by Demi Turner and a sacrifice bunt by Danielle Richard put runners on second and third with one out.
But Wallace got Chaunsey Bell to ground back to the circle on an attempted safety squeeze before fanning Danae Hays to end the sixth inning.
Alabama threatened again in the seventh after singles by both Jadyn Spencer and Marisa Runyon before the Cajuns defense stepped up. Wallace got Lafaele to ground into a fielder’s choice as Spencer was tagged out at third for the first out before Hayden made a diving stop of a grounder by Dare and retired the speedster for the second out.
Wallace then got McCleaney, who entered the game with a .588 batting average, to ground out to Hayden at second, ending the threat and giving Louisiana its first win away from Lamson Park this season.
Spencer had two hits to lead Alabama with Osorio allowing four hits, striking out 12 and issuing six walks in a losing effort.
Game 1 – Alabama 5, Louisiana 1
Alabama scored runs in the first, third and fourth innings off Louisiana starter Christina Hamilton (3-1) as it built a 4-0 lead and kept the Ragin’ Cajuns off-balance at the plate. McCleaney scored in the first inning on a grounder by Bell before reaching base on a third-inning single, moving to third on a single by Turner and scoring on a throwing error.
The Crimson Tide extended their lead to 4-0 in the fourth when Spencer hit a one-out single and Runyon followed with a two-run homer to center-field.
Littlejohn (6-0), who struck out five and walked three, held Louisiana hitless until Hayden led off the fifth inning with a bloop single to left field. Walsh added a two-out double off the left-field wall to score Hayden and cut the Alabama lead to 4-1 before the Crimson Tide added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Hays hit a solo home run off Ragin’ Cajuns reliever Kylee Jo Trahan.
Hamilton allowed three earned runs and fanned two batters in five innings for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Maly added a pinch-hit single and Elkins walked twice for Louisiana, which stranded five runners on base.