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Softball: Walsh’s homer pushes Cajuns to sweep

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, May 3, 2014

UL players congratulate Haley Hayden (35) after her solo- home run against UL-Monroe in the first game of an NCAA softball doubleheader Saturday at Lamson Park. (Photo: Leslie Westbrook/The Advertiser ) 

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The first one was way back on April 16.

With seven road games played between the two feats, it’s hard to imagine that there were any back-to-back aspects involved with what Samantha Walsh did Saturday afternoon at Lamson Park.

And truthfully, the Cajuns’ sophomore third baseman isn’t overly concerned about the details of the achievement.

She’s just glad that she had the confidence in both situations to deliver in a big way for the No. 13-ranked UL Ragin’ Cajuns.

In the April 16 game, Walsh led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo blast to left for a 5-4 win over McNeese State. In the team’s next home game, Walsh smashed the first pitch she saw for a three-run home run to left for a come-from-behind 8-6 win over UL Monroe.

The Cajuns would follow that win with a 7-0 shutout in Saturday’s nightcap to secure the doubleheader sweep and improve to 40-7-1 overall and 18-1 in Sun Belt play.

UL will wrap up the regular season at 1 p.m. today at Lamson Park on Senior Day, honoring seniors Shelbi Redfearn and Natalie Fernandez.

"I went up there sitting in and I got in on the first pitch," Walsh said. "After done it before definitely gave me more confidence. I was hoping I’d get that opportunity. In that situation, I’m on deck thinking that Lexie is going to do it. If she doesn’t do it, I’m thinking I’m going to do it. And if I don’t, I’m thinking Shellie (Landry) is going to do it."

Walsh now has eight homers and 28 RBIs after her 3-for-4, five-RBI performance at the plate in game one.

"I’m definitely getting more confidence in those situations," said Walsh, who said she actually prefers the defensive side of the game and she displayed that with numerous defensive gems that showed off her glove and her cannon right arm.

"I don’t really know why, but I’ve always had more fun (playing defense)."

Walsh’s heroics gave UL its 32nd win in the last 34 games and prevented a frustrating loss after taking an early 3-0 lead. UL starter Christina Hamilton gave up six runs on four hits, three walks and six strikeouts.

"Her location wasn’t as good as it has been, but she’s not a robot," UL coach Michael Lotief said. "It’s going to happen to all of them sometimes. It was just good to see her grind it out and she her teammates have her back."

The biggest obstacle for Hamilton was Alexis Cacioppo, who was 2-for-3 with two homers and six RBIs. Cacioppo’s grand slam in the fifth gave ULM a 6-4 lead at the time.

Haley Hayden’s solo homer in the bottom of the fifth narrow the gap to 6-5, but the Cajuns didn’t score in the sixth to leave it up to the bottom of the seventh.

"I told all three (Hayden, Lexie Elkins and Walsh) to go up there, take their hacks and let the chips fall where they may," Lotief said. "It worked for us this time, but the game doesn’t always allow that to happen."

Hayden led off with a walk and Elkins doubled off the wall, before Walsh smashed the first pitch she saw for a game-winning, three-run homer to left.

While the drama lasted until the final pitch of game one, game two was basically over after the first inning. UL’s game two starter Victoria Brown enjoyed a 1-2-3 top of the first, but ULM starter Samantha Hamby walked four and hit two batters in the bottom of the first.

In between all that, Landry lined a two-run single to left. The result was a 6-0 Cajun lead after one inning and neither team did much offensively the rest of the way.

The Cajuns did add a run in the sixth when Leandra Maly singled and scored on Fernandez’s high bouncer up the middle.

Brown wouldn’t need much help on this day. She faced the minimum through three, got out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fourth and ended up allowing no runs on four hits, two walks and struck out four in six innings.

"Every time Victoria gets an opportunity, she has stepped up," Lotief said. "It’s a matter of her believing in herself and her team believing in her. She has the tools. It’s just a matter of her continuing to grow and getting confident."