home sitesearch sitemap contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Softball: Two Cajun aces have fans giddy

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, February 21, 2015



The return of Christina Hamilton to the circle has Ragin’ Cajun fans even more excited about the prospects of the college softball season. (Photo: Leslie Westbrook/The Advertiser)


PHOTO GALLERY: UL Softball vs. Hofstra (2/21: Game 1)


If UL softball coach Michael Lotief and his No. 6-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns had any ideas about keeping the lofty expectations of their loyal and spirited fan base somewhat grounded this early in the season, they’re doing a rotten job of it.

The season began with rumors of potential health issues involving last year’s ace pitcher Christina Hamilton and 2013’s ace hurler Jordan Wallace. Possibly even long-term, some feared.

Just saying those words too many times probably took the breathe out of many of the Lamson Park faithful.

Then Wallace put many of those concerns to rest with a two-hit, 13-strikeout performance in the season-opening win over North Carolina State.

But what about Hamilton? When was she coming back?

After just throwing two innings in the first tournament, she warmed up last weekend but didn’t pitch. Didn’t sound good. How bad of a sign was that? Did it mean that she was more injured than we originally thought?

Then suddenly in jeopardy of the club’s first loss of the season down 3-2 in the third inning on Friday afternoon against Iowa, Lotief gave Hamilton, of all people, the ball, supposedly hoping to maybe get a good three innings out of her to steady the situation.

Hamilton would pitch the final 5.2 innings without giving up another run to earn her first win of the season.

Then to make all of the worrying look even sillier, Hamilton goes out Saturday afternoon and puts up six more zeroes to help the Cajuns crush Hofstra 9-0, before Wallace’s one-hitter took care of Missouri State 5-0 in the second game Saturday at the Ragin’ Cajun Invitational.

Tear or no tear, who knows, but Hamilton and Wallace both sure looked ready to shoulder the burden of the season ahead on Saturday.

And if you’re keeping score at home, that’s a 13-0 start with two All-American-caliber pitchers leading the way and one of the nation’s most potent lineups backing them up.

So much for being able to keep things in perspective. How in the world can any fan base, much less this rabid one, be expected to resist letting their high hopes get the best of them with this going on?

Not pointing any fingers, but somebody might need to go into a slump real quick here before things get completely out of hand.

“Both of them (Hamilton, Wallace) are completely locked in,” Lotief said. “Their motivation has changed since they were younger. It’s all about their teammates and those fans right now.”

Wallace didn’t allow a hit until a two-out single to left in the seventh to go along with 12 strikeouts. She’s now thrown 38 innings and still doesn’t have an ERA. (I’m sorry, 0.00 doesn’t qualify as having an ERA in the real world.)

Hamilton begin her reluctant postgame interview after her second straight promising performance with the expected answer about how all of UL’s pitchers prepare for every game as if they’re getting the ball.

As hard as it is to believe that Hamilton expected to get the ball on back-to-back days after throwing two innings all season long, the right-hander certainly pitched like she was totally prepared for that moment.

“Sure, I got tired and I got sore, but I’m not going to stop competing because I‘m tired,” said Hamilton, who admitted “craving” being back out on the field with her teammates in front of the boisterous Lamson Park crowd.

“It was an amazing feeling,” she said.

Much like he said of Wallace’s first outing, Lotief maintained Saturday that Hamilton pitched better than she had shown in the intrasquad scrimmages.

He suggested that maybe it’s “that adrenalin rush they get from the fans and their teammates” in game situations that explains it.

As encouraging as the pitching staff has been, the hitting of junior leftfielder Shellie Landry in the two-hole has been equally fantastic.

After struggling through an 0-for-3 against Hofstra on Friday, Landry busted loose Saturday by going 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in the first game against Hofstra and then going 2-for-2 with her team-high seventh homer and two more RBIs in game two.

”It was a lot different today,” Landry said. “Yesterday, they were jamming me in.”

On Saturday, she saw it correctly and drove it over the fence in right twice.

“That was an incredible adjustment she made,” Lotief said. “Both home runs were in clutch situations with the game on the line. That was big time. I was very impressed with her mental approach.”

And just in case that wasn’t enough good news to stir up the juices of UL softball fans, the Cajuns may have found another option to fill that elusive designated player spot in a familiar name – Leandra Maly.

The senior outfielder-by-trade got down a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed to reach as a pinch hitter in the first game, and then went 2-for-3 with the out being a line drive to left in the second game.

“Every day we keep challenging her (in practice), and she’s been choosing to get in (to competition for starting spot),” Lotief said. “I told her to jump in and compete. You have the tools, you have the data base of all those experiences (starting 51 games as a sophomore). She can help this team win.

“That’s why you can’t give up on these kids. You have to keep watching them grow.”

The problem is that Cajun softball fans may not be able to take much more of it until they just bust.

And just think May is more than two months away.