UL-Lafayette softball beats Texas, super regional bound

LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette unleashed the fury of its power game Sunday as the Ragin’ Cajuns’ bats blasted them into hosting the program’s first NCAA softball tournament super regional.

Regional top seed and No. 6 national seed UL-Lafayette had four home runs in a 10-1 victory over Texas at Lamson Park that clinched the Lafayette region title and a spot in the tournament’s round of 16.

In the best-of-three super regional this week at Lamson Park, the Cajuns (47-8-1) will face No. 11 national seed Arizona (44-14), which defeated LSU to claim the Tucson regional title.

The teams will meet at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, with a third game to follow Saturday’s game if necessary.

UL-Lafayette, which entered regional play with 79 home runs, was powered by a pair of homers by catcher Lexie Elkins and one each by left fielder Shelbi Redfearn and first baseman Kelsey Vincent. Pitcher Christina Hamilton complemented the offensive effort with her third straight complete game.

Hamilton (27-2) threw only 90 pitches, striking out five and allowing four hits and five walks. She did not allow a hit until the fourth, when Texas’ Gabby Smith launched a one-out, solo home run into the right-center field bleachers.

UL-Lafayette coach Michael Lotief said reaching a super regional with a team of mainly sophomores and freshmen was a surprise.

“They’ve taken me on a ride I didn’t expect and (they’re) playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played, so I’m having fun,” he said. “Ask me even a month ago if I expected to be in a super regional with this team, I would have to say no.”

Texas coach Connie Clark, whose team finished 35-23, said Hamilton managed the Longhorns’ hitters in methodical fashion.

“She’s game deceptive,” she said. “You don’t see that from the stands, but (Hamilton) is like a machine out there. Her spin stayed in the zone, and she just keeps going after it.”

The Cajuns grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning when they loaded the bases. Texas starter Tiarra Davis then walked designated player Sara Corbello and Vincent.

With two outs, Lotief pinch-hit sophomore Gabby Felps for leadoff hitter Natalie Fernandez, and Felps responded by lashing a two-run single just above the reach of Texas second baseman Stephanie Ceo.

UL-Lafayette built a 4-0 lead an inning later when right fielder Shellie Landry singled and came home on Redfearn’s homer.

Elkins’ first home run made it 5-1 in the fifth before the Cajuns added the final five runs in the seventh. The rally began with another Elkins solo homer, and later Redfearn knocked in two more with a double. Vincent also hit a solo homer to end the scoring.

Texas threatened to score more than one in the fourth. Catcher Mandy Ogle walked, and singles by Katrina Scott and Ceo loaded the bases. Leadoff hitter Brejae Washington then sent a ball to shallow center, but Fernandez dived and caught it to end the inning.

Davis, who threw 157 pitches in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to UL-Lafayette, started again and pitched 2.1 innings before Smith was summoned to the circle.

“We were hoping to get as much out of her as we could,” Clark said. “(Davis) has been our ace. At that point in the game, she began walking people and we felt like we needed to make a move and come back with her if we got close.”

Lotief said Hamilton had no such choice — and that she was pitching again if the teams had to play a second game Sunday.

“After yesterday’s game (against Texas), I told (Hamilton) to put her feet up, get some rest and hydrate,” Lotief said. “She could either make it easy or make it hard.

“I told her she didn’t have to bother looking at the bullpen.”