Some pitchers work inside and out to baffle hitters. But the ups and downs stymied the Northwestern State softball team in its first game of the Baton Rouge Regional.
Jordan Wallace mixed high heat with just the right amount of off-speed low pitches to lead Louisiana-Lafayette to a 3-0 victory Friday at Tiger Park.
Wallace (29-7) allowed only one hit and struck out 11 for the second-seeded Cajuns (44-13), who advanced to play top-seeded LSU (39-13) at noon Saturday.
“She’s pretty good,” Northwestern coach Donald Pickett said of Wallace. “She works the ball up and down, and that’s hard pitching to hit. We’ve faced a lot of side-to-side kids, and we’ve not faced a lot of up-and-down kids. She was able to come up there with the hard stuff high, and then she would throw the low pitches a little bit off-speed. We were seeing two different pitches at two different speeds.”
Jordan Palmer’s second-inning single was the lone hit for the third-seeded Demons (40-14), who will play No. 4 seed Central Connecticut (36-19) at 3 p.m. in an elimination game. Northwestern fell to 0-7 in NCAA regional play.
Northwestern’s Kylie Roos (17-5) scattered seven hits. That ULL scored a first-inning run helped put the Cajuns in control. ULL added single runs in the fourth and sixth.
“Any time you can be successful in the postseason, it’s a good thing,” ULL coach Michael Lotief said.
“It’s a matter of us trusting the process and taking it pitch by pitch,” Cajuns shortstop Nerissa Myers said.
Myers, who was 2-for-4, set the tempo with a single to open the bottom of the first.
Brianna Cherry followed with a single that dropped out of the glove of Northwestern right fielder Shenequia Abby, who had sprinted to her left to track the sinking liner. Myers then scored on a bases-loaded walk.
“In the postseason, it’s usually one-run games and, when you can get that one run in the first inning, it gives you a little boost,” Wallace said.
It took Wallace and Roos a few innings to adapt to a tight strike zone. Each pitcher had six walks. Wallace threw 144 pitches, 94 of which were strikes. Roos threw 123 pitches, 62 for strikes.
ULL left fielder Shellie Landry, who was 2-for-3, was the only other player with more than one hit. Landry and catcher Sarah Draheim each had an RBI.
Lotief thought his team might have been too patient at the plate. Palmer, NSU’s center fielder, said the opposite was true for the Demons.
“I don’t think we were patient enough,” she said.
Northwestern missed a chance to score in the fifth. Palmer and Abby both drew walks as the Demons loaded the bases. But Palmer was thrown out at the plate by Wallace, who fielded Cali Burke’s bunt and relayed it to Draheim.
Draheim’s RBI hit scored Myers from second in the fourth, while Landry drove in pinch runner Meagan Thomas in the sixth.
When asked what he expected from his team in the tourney’s remaining games, Lotief said, “Win and advance.”