LAFAYETTE — She didn’t know she was getting the ball until half an hour before the game.
Sophomore pitcher Alex Stewart was coming off a 2-0 performance last weekend, and Louisiana-Lafayette softball associate head coach T.J. Hubbard said she has the hot hand for the No. 10 Ragin’ Cajuns.
Stewart maintained her dominance in the circle, giving up just one run on two hits against Georgia State on Friday. She had eight strikeouts, and D.J. Sanders ended the game with a three-run homer as the Cajuns took the first game of the series 10-1 at Lamson Park.
“Alex’s performance last weekend and the way she handled herself made the decision for me,” Hubbard said. “She was composed and a lot more mature than we have seen in the past. ... It gave her a lot of moxie, and her pitches today were as good as I’ve seen them.”
Stewart said her fastball was working Friday — something she said hasn’t been a consistent out pitch this season. She said she is in a nice groove and she’s trusting her preparation.
“I had to stop thinking when I’m pitching,” Stewart said. “It’s mostly a mindset thing. Nothing is different in my preparation. We have all been working hard all year, and it’s nice that the team knows I have their back and they have mine.”
The Cajuns (28-5, 13-3 Sun Belt) offense surged in the second inning, scoring three runs — mostly on walks from Georgia State (23-13, 5-5). Panthers pitcher Katie Worley walked five batters in 2.1 innings; Georgia State pitchers walked nine for the game.
“We had a little issue in the first inning getting the offense going,” Hubbard said. “Once we did, we had positive at-bats from top to bottom, and then D.J. at the end came up big for us.”
With the score sitting at 7-1 in the sixth inning, Sanders delivered a three-run shot to end the game. Hubbard said Sanders is building some much-needed confidence, and Sanders said her hard work is finally paying off.
“I have been putting in a lot of extra work,” Sanders said. “I feel like I have finally gotten something out of what I have been putting in.”
Sanders said it isn’t difficult to get behind the team’s rallying cry — “trust the process.” She said she sees the older players who have been through it and absorbs their advice.
“If you get out of it, somebody else is trying to keep you in it,” Sanders said. “Even though I get discouraged, the older players, the ones who have been through it, they just tell me to trust it and that I’m going to get it. They’re always there for me.”
As for who’s pitching in Saturday’s doubleheader, Hubbard said Stewart will “more than likely” pitch at some point. He said the Cajuns will continue to ride her momentum.
“If you look at the last two weekends, she has been one of our better ones,” Hubbard said. “I still have a lot of confidence in the other kids, but she is the one that is going well right now.”