Softball: Walk-Off Home Run Topples Cajuns in Super Regional Opener
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – At one point, down to their last strike, the Ragin’ Cajuns softball team used a two-run home run by Brianna Cherry in the seventh and a solo-home run from Matte Haack in the eighth inning to take an extra-inning lead, but ultimately fell to the Michigan Wolverines (49-10), 4-3, on Friday afternoon in NCAA Super Regional play in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“I love the way they never give up,” head coach Michael Lotief said after the game. “I’m blessed to have a good group of student-athletes who love each other and fight and care about each other, and just lay it on the line. They lay it on the line for themselves, the University and the community, and I’m proud.“
“Obviously, we want to win,” Lotief continued. “We wish the result was different, but their effort and their attitude and how hard they prepared and how hard they work is really impressive to me. That was a great college softball game, a great environment.”
With the loss the Cajuns (46-14) will have to win two games tomorrow to punch their ticket to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. First pitch for game one on Saturday is 12:00 noon (EDT), 11:00 A.M. (CST) and will be televised on ESPN.
Much like last weekend in Baton Rouge, the game saw a majority of its action in the first inning. The Cajuns threatened in the first with a leadoff walk to Nerissa Myers. After going to second on a throwing error and third on a flyout, Myers was thrown out at the plate attempting to tag up on a shallow fly to right field.
Michigan also had a strong first inning, scoring two runs on three hits. They led the game off with a single before a sacrifice bunt, and back-to-back RBI hits to take a 2-0 lead with just one out in the inning.
The Cajuns got out of the inning with a strikeout from Jordan Wallace and a popup to Natalie Fernandez at third, before allowing just one more hit through regulation.
The Cajuns would pressure with a hit in every inning but the second, but couldn’t crack the scoreboard until the seventh inning.
Matte Haack gave the Cajuns their closest chance in the sixth inning when she hit what could have been a game tying home run. Haack’s hit was about a foot above the wall when Michigan right fielder Nicole Sappingfield reached over the wall and pulled the fly ball back into the park. Sappingfield could not hold onto the ball, but limited Haack to a single
With two outs in the seventh inning, the Cajuns were down to their last strike when Myers hit a single to left field and gave them more life.
Brianna Cherry took the most of that life, sending a 1-0 pitch well beyond the left field wall, tying the game for the Cajuns. It was Cherry’s 13th home run of the season and sparked the Cajuns lineup.
“Usually when I go up there I’m not thinking and trying to be too analytical or logical about it. Cherry said of her home run. “We always talk about putting ourselves in the best position in order for us to be successful, and we’ve worked our plan throughout the game and had some at-bats here and there. I just stepped in and tried to do what I could to put our team in the best possible position in order to be successful.”
Wallace helped keep the momentum on the Cajuns’ side in the bottom of the seventh, sending Michigan down 1-2-3 with a strikeout and two groundouts to Fernandez.
Haack would come up again in the eighth and this time she did not miss, sending a no-doubter over the left field fence to give the Cajuns the lead for the first time in the ball game. The home run put the Cajuns up 3-2 in extra innings.
The Wolverines did not go away in the eight, however. Second baseman Ashley Lane hit her 18th home run of the season to win the game, scoring herself and the lead off batter, pinch hitter Brandi Virgil who was hit by the pitch to lead off the inning to win the game.
It was the first time this season that the Cajuns have lost by way of a walk-off hit.
Myers reached base on all four of her at-bats, singling twice and walking twice, and scoring one run. Haack also finished the game with two hits.
“I just think it’s a matter of making adjustments throughout the game.” Myers said of the team’s late surge. “I think it was the fact that our batters were wearing her out throughout the game, getting a lot of 3-2 counts. Whether or not we were able to make the adjustment in that at-bat, it allowed her to throw a lot of pitches and let us see a lot more pitches. So I think that helped us throughout the game.”
Wallace tossed 7.0 innings, allowing four runs, two earned, on five hits and three walks, while striking out ten batters. The loss brought her record to 31-8 on the season.
The two teams will be back on the field tomorrow with the first pitch for game one starting at 12:00 P.M. local time, 11:00 A.M. Central time. The Cajuns will need to win twice to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
“There’s no pressure. You can’t play the game with pressure.” Lotief said of tomorrow’s games. “It’s a great college environment, and it’s going to be a great softball game tomorrow and we’re going to come out and enjoy it.”
Athletic Network Footnote:
Due to scheduling conflicts from the postponement of the Oklahoma/Texas A&M series in Norman, Oklahoma, the Ragin’ Cajuns and Michigan games tomorrow, Saturday, May 25 will be aired on ESPN2, not ESPN. The Oklahoma/Texas A&M series was originally to be played Thursday/Friday, but the recent storm in Oklahoma pushed it back a day.
If the Cajuns win the first game, the second game will also be on ESPN2.
Sports Information Assistant
University of Louisiana-Lafayette