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Softball: UL’s Walsh erases early slump with spectacular stretch drive

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, May 16, 2014

Anyone just watching UL third baseman Samantha Walsh play for the last month or so would have a tough time believing it ever happened.

During the Cajuns’ stretch drive that’s led UL to earning a No. 6 overall national seed, Walsh has certainly been something to watch.

At the plate, she’s had a flair for the dramatic with three game-winning home runs late, including two walk-offs.

As a fielder, Walsh has raised eyebrows with her diving stops in the hole, toward the baseline or her aggressive attacks against opposing short games.

She’s also made a circus act of her throws at times, showing off her rifle right arm.

The sophomore from Ingleside, Texas is now the clean-up hitter for one of the nation’s most prolific power-hitting offenses.

"It’s been fun," Walsh said of her contribution to the Cajuns’ incredible second-half surge that has UL 44-8-1 heading into Friday’s NCAA Regional opener at 6 p.m. against Texas Southern at Lamson Park.

Behind that smile, though, are the memories.

No, they don’t haunt her anymore. Those painful, frustrating recollections are more a badge of courage reminding Walsh how powerful personal perseverance, supportive teammates and a patient coaching staff can be.

During February and most of March, Walsh was lost.

She was striking out at an alarming rate, seemingly with no hope in sight. Her struggles at the plate expanded into some baserunning miscues and even a few more errors than she’s used to.

"I was a mess," Walsh admitted.

Going into the Oklahoma series in mid-March, she was hitting .135 with 20 strikeouts, and the average had been lower than that.

"I was thinking about it every day, all the time, in class, wherever I was," Walsh said. "It wasn’t so much that I was beating myself up over it. I was just trying to figure out how to fix it."

Walsh credits her teammates for starting her on the comeback trail by changing her mindset at the plate.

"The sisterhood that we talk about all the time has never been more true than this year," Walsh said. "It wasn’t just one or two teammates coming up to me. A whole bunch of them came to me, trying to give me confidence and trying to get me fixed."

Basically, Walsh went back to ground zero with her swing. At first, there was nothing to give her hope. Then she started hitting the ball harder in intrasquad games.

At that point, UL coach Michael Lotief was telling anyone who would listen that Walsh was showing positive signs, even if they weren’t evident in the actual games.

"I knew it wasn’t going to come back right away," Walsh said. "To see it happen in intrasquad games still made me feel better, because I knew that it could happen. I just had to keep working."

A quick glance at her current statistical line and it’s pretty apparent that it finally did start showing up in games. Walsh is batting .266 with five doubles, 10 homers, 34 RBIs and those strikeout totals were cut in half with only 40 for the season now.

"It was all in my head," Walsh understands now. "I was having bad at-bats before I even walked up to the plate. I just felt like I couldn’t do anything right.

"I just had to get into the right mindset."

For Lotief, Walsh was no where near the first talented hitter he’s ever coach to endure a prolonged slump, helping him trust his eyes in the case of his powerful third baseman.

"It’s tough on these girls," Lotief said. "They’re disappointed because they feel like they’re letting other people down. Then if you starting labeling yourself as a bad hitter, then you’re compounding the problem.

"Everybody goes through slumps. Babe Ruth went through slumps. You have to learn to come out of them."

While there were a few bumps in the road along the way, Walsh’s defense never got into a drastic slide. Since the bat has returned, however, her play at third has gotten even more dynamic.

"I think the more confidence you have in yourself overall, the more chances you’re willing to take," explained Walsh, who played second base and shortstop last year and started this season at shortstop.

"It’s been a productive move," Lotief said. "She feels more comfortable at third. Third base is a tough position. You have to be fearless. You have to line up 35 to 40 feet from the hitters in order to take away the short game."

For the record, Walsh admits that sometimes she puts a little extra on her throws just for fun.

"Sometimes I do tend to be slow (on a play), because I know I have the arm strength to make up for it," she said.

A shoulder injury late in her high school career left her without that arm strength for a year, so letting loose on a throw to first or second base helps her repeatedly enjoy the return of her powerful arm.

"That kid is tough and she’s talented," Lotief said. "She’s got a lot of tools. I knew it was only a matter of time."

Lafayette Regional

Friday Games

3 p.m. – Texas (33-21) vs. Mississippi State (38-19)

6 p.m. – UL (44-8-1) vs. Texas Southern (31-18)

Saturday’s Games

Noon – Game 1 vs. Game 2 winners

3 p.m. – Game 1 vs. Game 2 losers

6 p.m. – Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner

Sunday’s Games

Noon – Championship Game

3 p.m. – Championship Game (if necessary)

(TV: All the games will be aired on ESPN3, but subject to blackout in some areas.)



Double Elimination

x-if necessary

Seattle Regional

Thursday, May 15

Northwestern (33-16) vs. BYU (33-21), 6:30 p.m.

Iona (24-22) at Washington (33-13), 9 p.m.

Eugene Regional

Friday, May 16

Wisconsin (34-18) vs. Albany (NY) (33-11), 5 p.m.

Utah Valley (18-40) at Oregon (49-7-1), 8 p.m.

Minneapolis Regional

Friday, May 16

Auburn (39-17-1) vs. North Dakota State (35-16), 4 p.m.

Green Bay (27-12) at Minnesota (41-9), 6:30 p.m.

Tempe Regional

Friday, May 16

Michigan (42-12) vs. San Diego State (39-17), 2:30 p.m.

Dartmouth (31-17) at Arizona State (44-10-1), 5 p.m.

Tallahassee Regional

Friday, May 16

South Carolina (35-20) vs. South Florida (41-15), 3:30 p.m.

Fordham (36-18) at Florida State (50-6), 6 p.m.

Gainesville Regional

Friday, May 16

Stetson (38-12) vs. UCF (41-16), 3:30 p.m.

Florida A&M (24-27) at Florida (45-11), 6 p.m.

Waco Regional

Friday, May 16

Houston (32-21) vs. Tulsa (50-7), 4:30 p.m.

Northwestern State (30-20) at Baylor (42-13), 7 p.m.

Athens Regional

Friday, May 16

N.C. State (34-16) vs. UAB (31-25), 1:30 p.m.

Chattanooga (34-19) at Georgia (45-12), 4:30 p.m.

Los Angeles Regional

Friday, May 16

Long Beach State (38-17) vs. Notre Dame (39-11), 5 p.m.

Southern Utah (23-29) at UCLA (48-6), 8 p.m.

Lexington Regional

Friday, May 16

James Madison (44-13) vs. DePaul (41-9), 4 p.m.

Ohio (32-24) at Kentucky (44-15), 6:30 p.m.

Tucson Regional

Friday, May 16

Louisville (36-20) vs. LSU (35-22), 7:30 p.m.

Boston University (35-19) at Arizona (41-13), 10 p.m.

Sunday, May 18

Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 3:30 p.m.

Game 7: If necessary, 6 p.m.

Lafayette Regional

Friday, May 16

Texas (33-21) vs. Mississippi State (38-19), 3 p.m.

Texas Southern (31-18) at Louisiana (44-8-1), 6 p.m.

Norman Regional

Friday, May 16

Hofstra (33-13) vs. Texas A&M (35-20), 5 p.m.

Bryant (32-20) at Oklahoma (45-10), 7:30 p.m.

Knoxville Regional

Friday, May 16

Lipscomb (39-13) vs. Virginia Tech (35-21), 2:30 p.m.

Charleston Southern (27-31-1) at Tennessee (42-10), 5 p.m.

Columbia Regional

Friday, May 16

Kansas (33-21) vs. Nebraska (40-15), 12:30 p.m.

Bradley (27-30) at Missouri (41-16), 3 p.m.

Tuscaloosa Regional

Saturday, May 17

South Alabama (40-12) vs. SC Upstate (45-7), 3:30 p.m.

SIU Edwardsville (30-21) at Alabama (45-11), 6 p.m.

Super Regionals

May 22-25

Eugene vs. Minneapolis champions

Tempe vs. Tallahassee champions

Gainesville vs. Seattle champions

Waco vs. Athens champions

Los Angeles vs. Lexington champions

Tucson vs. Lafayette champions

Norman vs. Knoxville champions

Columbia vs. Tuscaloosa champions

World Series

May 28-June 4

ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City