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Softball: Freshman tosses three-hitter at Maryland

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, Feb. 25, 2017

UL’s true freshman pitcher Alyssa Denham revealed a little bit of a secret during last weekend’s coming-out party against No. 4 Alabama.

When she gets even a little bit off track, she simply steps back and looks to senior first baseman Haley Hayden to get her headed in the right direction again.

On Saturday afternoon at Lamson Park, it sure didn’t appear that Denham required many peeks toward first base. The tall right-hander tossed a three-hit shutout with no walks and struck out two to lead the No. 16 Ragin’ Cajuns to a 3-0 win over Maryland in the Mardi Gras Invitational.

The Cajuns will return to the field at 11:15 a.m. Sunday to meet Bradley, followed by the conclusion of the tournament against Mississippi Valley State.

“It’s not me,” Hayden laughed after Saturday’s win. “It’s all her.”

As a former high school pitcher at West Monroe, Hayden does have some experience with Denham’s challenges, not to mention the fact that she was an immediate star player as a true freshman with the Cajuns.

“I definitely remember what it was like as a true freshman, and it’s more on her being a pitcher, compared to a centerfielder like I was,” Hayden said. “I just keep motivating her, keep telling her that she can do it. I just try to be there for her if she needs me to be.”


Already this season, Denham has shown she has the mental toughness to go deep into counts. She even survived walking six last week against Alabama and improved as the outing went on.

That wasn’t the case Saturday when Denham got a lot of one-pitch outs and hurled a complete game with only 64 pitches.

“It’s kind of a pick-your-poison thing,” UL coach Michael Lotief said. “Her control is so good that she throws a lot of first-pitch strikes. So you can take that first pitch and be down in the count 0-1, or you can swing at it.”

Denham hit a batter and walked a batter in the first inning and then yielded a lead-off double in the third. But she cruised down the stretch, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters she faced.

“She’s very mature and she’s got good mechanics,” Hayden said.


The other way Hayden has been helping Denham and the rest of UL’s pitching staff this weekend has been with her bat at the plate.

After going 2-for-4 with a run Saturday, Hayden is now 8-for-12 with six RBIs and 10 runs scored for the tournament.

Hayden is now only 38 runs scored away from catching Nerissa Myers for the program’s all-time leader in runs scored.

“Things are just clicking for me right now,” Hayden said. “Every day, I just try to get better. I try to learn from what I did the day before.”

Hayden’s many contributions on the Cajuns (now 10-3) certainly aren’t lost on Lotief.

“Haley is so competitive every single at-bat,” Lotief said. “She’s been working hard and playing at a high level for a long time. You just can’t take that for granted.”


UL sophomore third baseman Kara Gremillion began Saturday’s game hitting .216 on the season.

After flying out in the first and striking out in the second, Gremillion delivered a clutch RBI single to left in the fourth and singled again in the sixth.

“I see her in practice every day,” Lotief said. “Trust me, if I thought she was really scuffling, I would pull her out of the 1-hole. Kara isn’t scuffling. She’s having good at-bats. She’s going deep into counts and not swinging at bad pitches. The difference is that she hasn’t been getting the results when the lights go on, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the lights going on.

Athletic Network footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas. 

Click here for photo gallery of UL vs. Maryland softball.