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Softball: Hamilton, Cajuns sweep Sooners

Kevin Foote, Daily Advertiser, March 16, 2014

UL pitcher Christina Hamilton comes through with two complete-game victories over defending national champion Oklahoma on Saturday, giving up five hits in 14 innings. / Paul Kieu/The Advertiser

It was built by some as her big test.

Christina Hamilton had pitched very impressively all season long, entering Saturday’s doubleheader with a 1.58 ERA.

But how would the Cajuns’ red-shirt junior fare against a top-notch program like the defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners?

Any more questions?

Hamilton surpassed any realistic goals on Saturday, throwing a pair of complete games in leading the No. 23-ranked Cajuns to a 7-0, 3-1 sweep of No. 13 Oklahoma.

In the first game, Hamilton threw a one-hitter, facing just three over the minimum, with one walk and six strikeouts. Just in case anyone didn’t believe that dominance, she encored that by yielding just four hits, one walk and striking out four.

“It feels good,” said Hamilton, who sat out her entire second season at UL with a knee injury and pitched only 35 innings last season. “The difference is with my mindset. A lot of people have helped me with that, Coach Mike (Lotief) and Coach (Robert) Verde and my teammates. Everybody on the team contributed to where I am now.”

On Saturday, that was the feeling of being on top of the world, seeemingly securing her position as a weekend starter when Sun Belt play commences at Georgia State on Friday.

Hamilton said that big difference in her mindset is “attacking instead of being cautious and timid.”

The Rosepine High product threw just 87 pitches in the first game and held it to 95 pitches in the second half.

“She’s not a power pitcher so we weren’t worried about wear or tiring her out,” Lotief said about the decision to throw Christina in game two. “It came down to her judgment and the coaching staff’s judgment.

“The plan that we had put together had been effective so we wanted to see during the intermission what she still had. Her spin was still there and her she was throwing well so we wanted to go with her as long we could.”

In Hamilton’s mind, neither pitching against Oklahoma nor being asked to pitch both games of the doubleheader impacted her mental approach.

“To me, confidence doesn’t come from which team we play, but from working hard in practice,” she said.

“As a staff, we try to prepare for situations like this (pitching both games). To get to the World Series, somebody’s got to do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired.”

One thing that did aid Hamilton’s cause was outstanding defensive plays from Samantha Walsh at third and Corin Voinche at shortstop.

“She (Walsh) amazed me,” Hamilton said. “I knew she had it in her. It was great to see her and Corin make those plays.”

Her offensive teammates played a key role as well. In the opener, Shelbi Redfearn began the scoring with an RBI double in the third, followed by a Kelsey Vincent run-scoring single for a 2-0 lead.

That lead rose to 7-0 with a five-run fourth. Vincent singled home another run and Voinche singled one home, before Haley Hayden double one home and Lexie Elkins delivered a two-run single to left for finish off the scoring.

In the nightcap, Natalie Fernandez tripled to rightcenter to lead off the third and scored on Hayden’s single. The extra-base hit broke a string of 201 singles and was the first triple of her career.

Hayden struck again in the fourth with a two-run double for a 3-0 lead.

“Baseball and softball are games of redemption and second chances,” Lotief said. “Look at Samantha. She made some great plays defensively today. Last year, she played second and shortstop and now she’s playing third. She can flash some leather. And today, she hit the ball hard.”

The Cajuns (17-6-1) will next host Sam Houston in a doubleheader Wednesday before beginning Sun Belt play at Georgia State on Friday.

“It’s still too early,” Lotief said when asked if he’s ready to declare Hamilton the game one starter.

Saturday’s masterpieces, however, certainly gave the staff plenty to chew on.