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Softball: No. 7 Louisiana Takes Rubber Match with No. 5 Oregon

 

 

 LAFAYETTE – Haley Hayden provided the lead with a three-run double in the second inning and Alex Stewart fended off late-inning threats as the No. 7-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns softball team topped No. 5 Oregon, 5-4, in the third and final meeting between the two teams in the 30th Annual Louisiana Classics held Saturday at Lamson Park.
 
The win gave the Ragin’ Cajuns (7-1) a 2-1 edge over the Ducks (6-3) in head-to-head meetings in the tournament.
 
No. 7 Louisiana wraps up play in the Louisiana Classics on Sunday at 12:30 p.m., with a matchup against Central Arkansas. The Ragin’ Cajuns and Bears are meeting in a Lamson Park-based tournament for the third straight season.
 
In picking up her second victory over No. 5 Oregon in the Louisiana Classics, Stewart (5-0, 1.50 ERA) bested All-American Cheridan Hawkins who was charged with five runs over 2-2/3 innings.
 
Stewart did not yield a walk for her fifth consecutive to start the 2016 season, extending of string of walk-free innings to 28. She held the Ducks to eight hits over seven innings and struck out four.
 
Hayden’s three RBI were a game-high total and marked the junior second baseman’s second multiple-RBI contest of three-plus RBI this season.
 
Lexie Elkins finished 2-for-4 at the plate – her fourth multiple-hit game – the first hit being a solo home run off of Hawkins that gave the Cajuns a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
 
Oregon drew even in the bottom half of the first on a solo home run by Nikki Udria.
 
Hawkins, who was unable to command the strike zone as she did on Friday, issued three straight one-out walks, loading the bases for the Ragin’ Cajuns in the top of the second inning. Two batters later and Hayden rifled a double deep into left center to clear the bases and give Louisiana a 4-1 edge.
 
A two-out RBI single by DJ Sanders in the third inning scored Kelsey Vincent (one-out walk) with what proved to be the decisive run.
 
Stewart, who zipped through the first two innings with 25 pitches, was pressured by the Ducks from the third through sixth innings as the visitors began to become patient at the plate and work the counts.
 
Sammie Puentes and Alyssa Gillespie singled in the bottom of the third inning to set the stage for a fly foul sacrifice and Koral Costa RBI single that trimmed the Cajuns lead to 5-3.
 
Megan Kleist, who relieved Hawkins in the circle in the third inning, tossed 4-1/3 innings of three-hit relief to prevent the Cajuns from adding to their lead. She was aided by inning-ending double plays turned by her defense in the fifth and sixth inning, the latter with the bases loaded for Louisiana.
 
Oregon scratched an unearned run in the fifth inning after Gillespie reached on a fielding error by Vincent, moved to third on an Udria bunt single and scored on a wild pitch.
 
Still with no outs in the fifth inning, Stewart protected the 5-4 lead as she induced a fly ball out from Costa and Hailey Decker lined into a double play.
 
Stewart’s last stand came in the bottom of the sixth after a double by Geri Ann Glasco gave the Ducks runners at second and third with one out. Gwen Svekis fouled out at third base and Punetes filed out to left field.
 
The finishing touch on the triumph for Stewart in the seventh inning included retiring the Ducks’ 1-2-3 hitters (Gillespie, Udria, Costa) in order in the seventh inning.
 

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