LAFAYETTE — Christi Orgeron found her hitting stroke on championship Sunday in time to help power the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to an NCAA regional softball title with a 6-2 victory over Stanford before a record crowd of 2,729 at Lamson Park.
Orgeron, 0-for-8 in her first two tournament games, had a solo home run and a single that accounted for three runs batted in as the Cajuns (52-4) advanced to a super regional for the second time in three seasons.
ULL will play at No. 3 seed Arizona State this weekend, with the winner advancing to the Women’s College World Series that starts May 31 in Oklahoma City.
ULL defeated Arizona State 9-2 in a tournament in March in Fullerton, Calif.
Stanford (40-19) fought through the losers bracket after losing to the Cajuns 9-3 in six innings on Saturday.
In addition to Orgeron’s hitting resurgence, the Cajuns received 5.2 innings from senior starter Ashley Brignac, who was relieved for the remainder of the game by freshman Jordan Wallace.
Orgeron, a senior right fielder who leads the Cajuns with 22 homers, said she never felt pressure to emerge from her offensive slump.
“I never really felt the pressure to get the hits,” Orgeron said. “I know our hitters one through nine, even when I’m struggling at the plate, are going to pick up the slack. Never did I lose faith in my teammates and faith in myself.”
Brignac, 9-4 in her postseason career, struck out seven throughout the first five innings. Stanford began providing offense in the sixth, as the Cardinal delivered four straight singles that scored two runs.
At that point, ULL co-head coach Mike Lotief pulled Brignac (23-3) and inserted Wallace, who got the final out on an Ashley Hanson fly ball to Katie Smith in left field.
Wallace didn’t allow a hit or a walk the remainder of the way, earning her second save of the season.
Brignac said it was a compilation of things that led to her departure.
“It’s not one specific thing,” Brignac said. “Things started falling in there, and they decided to change it up and get Jordan in there. We have a (pitching staff) where we trust each other to finish it up. Jordan came in there and stepped up in a big moment.”
Stanford second baseman Jennifer Rich said the team started to produce some offense late against Brignac.
“Our goal then was to string together some hits and build up some momentum going into the later part of the game,” Rich said. “I think, once we broke through, it lifted our team up quite a bit. That was all we could ask for, to hit the ball where it was pitched.”
The Cajuns again received good hitting from Smith, the leadoff hitter and third baseman Natalie Fernandez, who bats ninth.
Fernandez had a pair of hits, while Smith went 3-for-4 .
Lotief complimented Fernandez and Smith, a pair of slap hitters who combined for 16 hits over three regional tournament games.
“Our slappers are something that we have worked real hard on the last four or five years,” Lotief said. “These kids are warriors who just find a way to get it done and put so much pressure on the defense.”
Smith and shortstop Nerissa Myers hit consecutive first-inning singles. Smith later scored on Orgeron’s line drive single, while Brianna Cherry’s sacrifice to right field scored Myers.
The Orgeron homer gave the Cajuns a 3-0 lead in the third. In the fourth inning, catcher Sarah Draheim put ULL in front 5-0 with a homer that scored second baseman Paige Cormier, who singled to start the inning.
Stanford coach John Rittman felt ULL’s pitching and offensive package were hard to overcome.
“They (ULL) have two very good pitchers, speed at the top of the lineup, power in the middle of the lineup and speed at the bottom of the lineup,” Rittman said. “They are a very good team.”
Rittman said ULL’s home crowd, which broke two stadium attendance records in three days, played a part.
“This isn’t an easy place to play in,” Rittman said.
ULL co-head coach Stefni Lotief said winning a tournament the Cajuns hosted was something special.
“Chills go up and down my spine just thinking about it, and I know the kids did, too,” Lotief said. “I’m so proud of the way these Cajuns’ girls just stepped up and got it done.”
The Cajuns were playing in their 22nd regional in school history since 1990. ... With the victory, co-head coach Stefni Lotief picked up her 600th career win, while co-head coach Michael Lotief moved one win shy from his 500th. ... ULL’s regional attracted 14,097 during the six sessions that started Friday afternoon.