After a weekend that saw her pitch 14.2 shutout innings, win three games and earn Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the week honors, Louisiana-Lafayette senior Christina Hamilton is shaping up to have quite the encore to her amazing 2014 season.
Last season, Hamilton was second-team All-American, Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year and an All-Sun Belt first-team pick. She went 29-4 with a 1.56 ERA as she helped lead the Ragin’ Cajuns to the Women’s College World Series.
Despite Hamilton’s success last year, and the team’s success as a whole — what happened last year means little this season.
“Last year doesn’t define Christina,” catcher Lexie Elkins said. “That doesn’t define our team. This a new season with a new approach. Christina is just out there trying to win a pitch.”
All this while pitching with an injured arm. The senior had an MRI done in January that showed no tear to her throwing shoulder but didn’t make her first start until last weekend.
Hamilton pitched 5.2 innings in relief against Iowa and allowed just three hits. She started and pitched five innings against Hofstra and allowed just two hits.
On Sunday, after fellow senior Jordan Wallace struggled in the first inning against McNeese State, Hamilton came on in relief and won after going four innings and allowing just one run. She said she didn’t even think she’d get to pitch in the Ragin’ Cajuns Invitational, but once she got the ball, she said she was ready for it.
“We all try to come out like we are going to be the one that is going to get the ball,” she said. “Did I think I was going to pitch? No, but we go out there with the mentality that we are getting the ball in every game. I have the mentality that I’m going out there and I’m ready to compete and give what I have.”
Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said once it was determined Hamilton would be healthy, the secondary concern was if Hamilton would be effective — and effective she was.
“That is the most effective I have seen her,” Lotief said. “It seems like her preparation has allowed her to take that workload. At the end there (Sunday against McNeese), she was on pure guts.”
Lotief said he doesn’t know if Hamilton will ever physically be back to 100 percent. Hamilton said she finds herself getting tired, but battles through for her teammates.
“I feel like I get tired and I get sore, but that is all part of competing,” she said. “I’m not going to stop giving my all just because I get tired. I am going to find away to compete in that moment.
“It is crazy how much you crave to be out on the field when you can’t be. To be out there competing again felt amazing.”
Lotief said he underestimated Hamilton’s mental state in the young season and said last weekend’s performance proved she is locked in.
“That adrenaline rush of being out there with the fans and her teammates and competing — that is what competitors like,” Lotief said. “They want to get in that arena. It gives her that feeling she craves.”