Freshman pitcher Wallace stymies Sun Devils in Game 1
TEMPE, Ariz . — The nation’s most potent offense did it with pitching, and Louisiana-Lafayette is one win away from its sixth trip to the Women’s College World Series.
Oh, the Ragin’ Cajuns used the long ball, as they have all year, but Jordan Wallace allowed only two hits in a shutout of reigning national champion Arizona State 6-0 on Thursday night in the first game of the best-of-three super regional.
“I just got to the point where I could just spin the ball and let my defense work for me,” Wallace said.
“It was just an unreal experience and something I’ve never been through before and I’m excited to play tomorrow.”
ULL (53-4) meets Arizona State (49-9) at 8 p.m. Friday at Farrington Stadium in Tempe to try and advance to Oklahoma City. A loss would force a second game Friday.
Wallace (27-1) allowed a walk to lead off the first, an infield single and a solid single in the sixth, but she had the Sun Devils — who average seven runs a game — swinging early and popping out. During one stretch, from the second through fifth innings, she needed only 27 pitches to retire 12 of 13 batters. She had 15 flyouts and struck out three.
“I was definitely having a little anxiety at the beginning, but you have to overcome that and be able to play your game,” Wallace said. “I knew that I was better than that and needed to work hard.”
Her gem came against a Sun Devil powerhouse that was 40-3 at home, playing before 1,663 mostly partisan fans, with the temperatures topping 90 degrees. The Sun Devils were 10-0 in super-regional games in Tempe. Coach Clint Myers was 44-10 in the postseason overall and 23-2 in NCAA action at Farrington Stadium.
That was before Thursday. Remember, this is also a Ragin’ Cajuns team that leads the nation in scoring at 8.1 runs a game.
“We don’t take nothing for granted,” said co-coach Michael Lotief. “It’s a good team in that other dugout. This series is a long way from being over. Our kids understand that. There won’t be no celebrating tonight, won’t be no party tonight.”
And after some missed opportunities, Paige Cormier got her chance in the fourth.
Cormier was at the plate with two outs in the third inning when Nerissa Myers was cut down coming home. Cormier, a senior second baseman, came up in the fourth, and on a 1-2 pitch, she homered over the left-field fence to break a scoreless tie. Sarah Draheim then made it 2-0 when she hit one a little to the right of Cormier’s that just cleared the fence.
“Well, it did give me a chance to see more pitches, of course,” Cormier said of her third-inning at-bat, which was cut short.
“It was just putting good at-bats together and seeing good pitches and being ready for the pitch I was looking for.”
Matte Haack, who played for ASU-rival Arizona last season, knocked in runs in the fifth and seventh with a fly ball and a single. Brianna Cherry added a two-run single in seventh.
ASU starter Dallas Escobedo (22-6) kept ULL slugger Christi Orgeron at bay, but allowed 12 hits.
Orgeron, who has 22 home runs and leads the nation with 94 RBIs, went 1-for-3, popping the ball up on all three at-bats.
Wallace didn’t look like a freshman after walking the leadoff hitter in the first.
She went to 3-0 counts on her first two batters. But she struck out Alix Johnson and then got the next eight in a row. She needed just four pitches in the second and six pitches in the third. It was her fifth shutout of the year.
It was the second straight win for ULL over Arizona State. When these two teams met March 15 in Fullerton, Calif., the Cajuns won, 9-2.
ULL got runners on base in each of the first three innings. They had two bloop singles in the first, but in the second, they failed to take advantage of two Sun Devil errors.
Draheim reached on a shot down the left-field line that third baseman Haley Steele tried to backhand and allowed to go into left. Then, one out later, slap hitter Natalie Rodriguez, a sophomore from Live Oak High School, grounded to shortstop Katelyn Boyd, who promptly threw the ball almost into the first-base stands. But Escobedo got Katie Smith to bounce back to the box to end the threat.
In the third, Myers bunted her way on, and two outs later, Cherry hit a solid single to left-center. But on a 1-2 pitch, Myers broke for and was tagged out by Steele.
The last time ULL was in a super regional, in 2010, it lost to eventual national champion UCLA. In 2008, the Cajuns beat Houston in a super regional on the road.