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Softball: Late Heroics Secure Softball's Sun Belt Championship Game Ticket
14th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns maintain control in eventful path to the finish line
TROY, Ala. – In an action-packed finish to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament winner's bracket final on Friday at the Troy Softball Complex, it was No. 14 Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Softball capitalizing on presented opportunities that made the difference in a 4-3 win over Texas State.
As a result, Louisiana (43-10) advanced to Saturday's 2:30 p.m. championship game – the program's seventh consecutive appearance in the title game, and 19th overall in 21 editions of the Sun Belt's postseason event. The Ragin' Cajuns will face the survivor of the tournament's final elimination game which will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Trailing 2-1 in the sixth inning, it was the hustle of Justice Milz that forced an errant throw on the would-be final out of the frame that changed Louisiana's fortune. The misplay allowed Ciara Bryan, who led off the inning with her third hit of the day, to cross home plate and even the score.
Milz moved to second base on the throw and was immediately driven home when Julie Rawls deposited a single into right field, giving Louisiana the lead for good at 3-2.
With the lead back in hand, Summer Ellyson turned in the key moment of her relief effort when she retired the Bobcats (38-11) in order in the bottom of the sixth inning and prevented a response.
Freshman Sophie Piskos gave Ellyson and the Ragin' Cajuns valuable insurance in the seventh inning when she drove an RBI double to the wall in left center increasing the lead to 4-2. Piskos' moment was set up by a wild pitch on a strikeout that allowed the speedy Jenna Kean to enter as a pinch runner.
Texas State made a last-minute attempt at prolonging the game when a two-out solo home run from Tara Oltmann closed the gap to 4-3, but Ellyson fanned Sara Vanderford end the Bobcats' hopes.
The two teams played to a scoreless stalemate through the first four innings before a two-out RBI single by Louisiana's Kendall Talley in the fifth inning sparked the offenses.
The Bobcats briefly held the lead after a two-out, two-run single by Hailey MacKay in the bottom of the fifth, only to have it slip away by the costly defensive miscue the next frame.
- The three-hit effort from Ciara Bryan (3-for-4, run) marked the first hits of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament for the league's Player and Newcomer of the Year.
- Friday's production increased Ciara Bryan's season hits total to 78, placing her on the verge of her first career 80-hit season.
- In four matchhups with Texas State this season, Ciara Bryan is now batting a team-leading .571 (8-for-14) with three runs scored.
- The Ragin' Cajuns totaled 10 hits in the contest, marking the second straight SBC Tournament game reaching double figures. The squad has had at least nine hits all three games of the tournament, and has totaled 31 hits on a .378 average.
- Louisiana received at least one hit from eight of the nine spots in the batting order.
- Kandra Lamb started in the circle and scattered four hits over 2-1/3 innings. Lamb worked around runners in scoring position twice increasing her number of scoreless innings pitched in the Sun Belt Tournament to 7-1/3 innings.
- Summer Ellyson collected seven strikeouts during her 4-2/3 innings pitched in relief. Ellyson has tallied 17 strikeouts through 11-2/3 innings worked in the 2021 SBC Tournament.
- Summer Ellyson surpassed five strikeouts for the 10th time in the last 16 appearances (since April 5). During the timeframe she has recorded 95 strikeouts over 78-1/3 innings.
- Summer Ellyson captured career win No. 96 inching her closer to the possibility of reaching 100 career wins. Only two other Ragin' Cajuns pitchers have reached the century mark (Brooke Mitchell, Kyla Hall).
- The run-scoring single in the fifth inning marked Kendall Talley's team-leading fourth RBI of the SBC Tournament. Talley has posted at least one RBI all three games this week.
- The insurance run that Sophie Piskos produced in the seventh inning was her first RBI of the Sun Belt Tournament, making her the ninth (9th) different Ragin' Cajuns hitter to drive in a run this week in Troy.
- The go-ahead run driven in by Julie Rawls in the sixth inning increased her personal single-season best RBI total to 52 (first 50-RBI season of her collegiate career).
- Louisiana's all-time record in the Sun Belt Conference tournament moved to 64-9 (.877).
- Going back to the 2019 SBC Tournament, the Ragin' Cajuns have won their last six games in the league's postseason event.
- Louisiana and Texas State met in the Sun Belt Tournament for the eighth time. The Ragin' Cajuns improved to 7-1 against the Bobcats in the event.
- The Ragin' Cajuns and Bobcats met in the winner's bracket final of the SBC Tournament for the fourth time in the past five events. For the fourth time, Louisiana claimed the matchup.
No. 14 Louisiana returns to the Troy Softball Complex on Saturday (May 15) seeking to defend its 2019 title claimed in San Marcos and capture the program's 16th overall Sun Belt Tournament championship.
The 2021 SBC Tournament championship game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. (CDT). The Ragin' Cajuns opponent will be determined by the final elimination game scheduled for 11 a.m. (CDT).
Live video coverage is available on ESPN, and Ragin' Cajuns fans can also follow along on SportsRadio ESPN 1420-AM and at CajunStats.com.
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