LAFAYETTE — The only thing left to do is to decide which adjective to use to describe Jordan Wallace’s performance Friday against N.C. State.
The Louisiana-Lafayette softball team’s senior pitcher was awesome, pitching 4.1 hitless innings. She was sensational, pitching a shutout in her first start since May. And she was brilliant, striking out 13 batters in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 6-0 win.
After a 2014 season that saw Wallace struggle to find her 2013 form, it appears she is on her way to a great season, coach Michael Lotief said.
“It has been a long road back, and I think this is the start of a good season for her,” he said. “She commanded three pitches. I liked her command, and her spin was really good. That is the Jordan I remember.”
Wallace’s teammates said she remained positive and used her struggles as both a learning experience for herself and a teaching experience for her teammates. Wallace said her teammates’ support is the only reason she didn’t fold.
“I know my team has my back, and no one on this team doubted me for a second,” she said. “That is the greatest thing about this program: Nobody lets anyone fall behind. Just because someone struggles doesn’t mean you’re off the team. We work the process and stay true to the process.”
Kelsey Vincent, who had a three-run homer in the third inning that put the Cajuns up 5-0, said she has seen Wallace trusted that process and is now seeing the result of her hard work.
“She has been through it and put her trust in us and her preparation,” Vincent said. “She is pitching great. The game is rewarding her, and it is because of the work she puts in.”
Wallace did hit four batters Friday, but Lotief said he was pleased that she immediately took the ball and didn’t lose focus.
“She self-corrected right away,” Lotief said. “Last year she couldn’t self correct, but today she did that.”
The Wolfpack got just two hits Friday, and the Cajuns played solid defense to keep runs off the board. Freshman second baseman Hayley Hayden made a diving play that prevented a runner from scoring from second base, and she added a solo home run in the sixth inning that set the final margin.
Lotief said Hayden is one of the team’s biggest competitors.
“When the bright lights come on, Hayley is ready to compete,” he said. “That was a nice play (at second). I hadn’t seen her do something like that in practice. She must have been saving that for the game.”
Despite a dominant performance in the circle, a pair of home runs and strong defense, Lotief said the Cajuns are not a finished product, with improvement set to continue in Saturday’s games against Central Arkansas and Eastern Illinois. He said he thinks Friday’s performance is just a taste of the team’s personality this year.
“People got to see the athleticism of this team,” he said. “It’s a good start, but we can nitpick that game apart. We have a lot we can do better, and it starts with these kids. Before we pat each other on the back, they’re going to ask how we can get better.”