OKLAHOMA CITY — Remember how the University of Louisiana at Lafayette offense got all over Oklahoma pitcher Kelsey Stevens during a Saturday doubleheader sweep at Lamson Park in mid-March?
That didn’t happen this time.
This time, the Sooners ace stymied the potent Louisiana-Lafayette offense, keying a 3-1 win in an elimination game Saturday at the Women’s College World Series.
“This one is finding ways to get out of innings,” OU coach Patty Gasso said of Stevens (38-9). “They had opportunities numerous times, and I’m just proud of the way Kelsey found ways to get out of it.”
The Cajuns (49-10-1) bruised the Stevens, sending her away from Lamson Park with 4.38 ERA during their three-game series. UL-Lafayette won 7-0 and 3-1 on March 15 (after falling 13-5 the day before.)
The difference in shutting down UL-Lafayette, which notched six hits but stranded 11 runners?
“Just staying calm and keeping my composure,” Stevens said. “I almost feel more comfortable in pressure situations it seems like. I just really trust my defense.”
An arm band used between innings to keep Stevens loose also helped.
“We definitely changed some things up, looked at video and realized some things,” Stevens said. “You saw me go to the arm band today, and I think that helped.”
Inside-the-park home run
Callie Parsons watched Erin Miller strike out, and made a decision.
“I knew I had to do something to help us get the momentum back,” the junior center fielder said. “I was trying to take my hacks.”
Swinging at a 2-0 pitch, Parsons’ bat didn’t launch a rocket, but the bloop shot still produced a coveted run with the second inside-the-park home run in series history.
The ball drifted to the left field line, and a sliding Shelbi Redfearn couldn’t come up with it. The ball rolled to corner, and a galloping Parsons watched it all unfold.
“As soon I saw she dropped the ball, I took off running,” Parsons said. “I looked at coach, and she’s just telling me to go all the way.”
Said Gasso: “Heads up moving around the bases the way she did late in the game. That helped bring a little more momentum and security.”
Tough to go 0-2
Early exits aren’t usually the Ragin’ Cajuns’ thing.
UL-Lafayette arrived at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium with a 6-10 record all-time at the Women’s College World Series, but the only time they had gone two-and-out before this trip came in 2003.
Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said the results stings now, but that should fade in the coming weeks.
“It’s always tough when your season ends, because our dream is to hold that trophy,” Lotief said.
“When we look back and we gain some perspective on how we’ve learned and how we’ve grown, we’re going to be proud.”
Cajuns went all in
The Cajuns’ youth-laden roster only has two seniors, but guiding the program has been easy.
Second baseman Natalie Fernandez said UL-Lafayette’s 22 underclassmen, which includes nine freshman, bought in quickly and matured beyond their respective ages.
“I’ve said it all along that this team is special,” Fernandez said. “We got together in the beginning, and we decided to take a risk and all 27 of us we’re going to go all in.”