UL-Lafayette struggles in WCWS-opening loss to Kentucky

Hamilton, UL-Lafayette defense have tough day at park, drop WCWS opener to Kentucky

OKLAHOMA CITY — A spin of the shoulders started a frustrating sequence for Christina Hamilton.

Scooping up a sacrifice bunt, the Louisiana-Lafayette pitcher pivoted and put too much torque on a toss to first base.

Suddenly, ball drifted over first baseman Kelsey Vincent’s glove and landed in right field.

Kentucky pinch runner Megan turned at second and chugged around third, and Shellie Landry’s heave overshot catcher Lexie Elkins at home in the sixth inning of a 4-1 loss to the Wildcats.

“I just made a bad throw,” Hamilton said.

On Thursday, little miscues, a few pitches that missed their spots and a Wildcats ace in Kelsey Nunley silencing potent bats added up for Ragin’ Cajuns in their opener in the Women’s College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

Now, coach Mike Lotief’s program has no wiggle room.

It’s win or go home, with a march to the final series requiring a potential four-game slog through the loser’s bracket.

“I don’t what care what history says,” Lotief said. “Let’s just play it out and see what happens. We’ve got our reservations until Wednesday night and see what happens.”

But the warning signs popped early for the Ragin’ Cajuns (49-10-1) and Hamilton.

Granted, it wasn’t the redshirt junior’s doing.

After notching two quick outs, Hamilton ran into a two-out jam in the top of the first inning. Shortstop Corin Voinche booted an easy grounder off Nikki Sagermann’s bat, and Hamilton walked Griffin Joiner.

First baseman Lauren Cumbess staked the Cats to the early 1-0 lead when she knocked an offering to the center-field wall.

“We don’t really ever think about outs,” said Cumbess, who went 3-for-3 and knocked in two runs. ‘We just put our head down and always try to make something happen with two outs.”

Even then, UL-Lafayette blotted out the mistake quickly.

On a full-count, Elkins smashed a Nunley offering over the left-field wall in the bottom of the first, pulling the Cajuns even 1-1. Except it was the first and only hit Nunley (30-9) would surrender in rolling to her 11th-consecutive complete game.

“I kind of expected them to hit at least one good ball,” Nunely said.

Yet the Wildcats lineup efficiently churned its way back in front an inning later.

Krystal Smith led off with a double and advanced on a bunt. All designated player Ginny Carroll needed to do was loft a sacrifice fly into left field to let the second baseman trot in for a 2-1 lead.

And they extended the lead to 3-1 two innings later when Cumbess throttled a solo shot to gap in left field.

Yet Hamilton only allowed five hits in tossing a complete game, issued just three walks and saw only two runs charged to her.

“I just didn’t do a very good job hitting my spots,” Hamilton said. “They didn’t do what they were supposed to. I felt like I had some good at-bats, but for the most part it was inconsistency.”

What about her error?

“I guess the game was moving a little bit faster than I expected to,” Hamilton said.

Granted, the rest of the defense behind her wasn’t immune.

The Cajuns committed three errors, two of which produced runs.

And they narrowly escaped allowing another to cross the plate in the top of the fifth.

Third baseman Samantha Walsh whipped a throw over the head of first baseman Kelsey Vincent as Carroll cruised into second base to start the inning.

A bunt moved her to third, but the Wildcats failed to cash in.

Centerfielder Sylver Samuel tried to lay down a bunt but saw it roll sharply to shortstop Voinche, who scooted in to play tight and gunned a throw home to get Carroll well ahead of her slide.

“Errors come,” Walsh said. “Nobody is ever going to play perfect. There’s going to be an error here or there.”

Meanwhile, Nunley kept the Cajuns at bay, retiring eight batters in a row at one point until she issued a walk — one of five on the night — to Corin Voinche.

Sara Corbello popped out to Joiner, and pinch hitter Gabby Felps grounded out to move over pinch runner Cassidy White to second.

But Natalie Fernandez lined out to Stokes at shortstop to end the inning.

All total, the heart of the lineup — Elkins, Walsh, and Haley Hayden — went 1 of 7 at the plate as an offense that had hummed over the past six weeks sputtered.

“I trust that if we faced her again,” Elkins said, “we’d be able to do our jobs.”

There’s no choice now, though.

And the Cajuns don’t seem intent on nitpicking the snafus that have them on the brink.

“We’re not going to sit here and try to figure out what went wrong,” Hamilton said. “We’re going to keep grinding it out. We’re here to play. We’re here to fight. We’re here to win.”

Follow Matthew Harris on Twitter: @MHarrisAdvocate.