SAN MARCOS, Texas — Its 6-3 victory over South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference softball tournament became more and more important for Louisiana-Lafayette as Friday stretched into the evening hours.
The win boosted the Ragin’ Cajuns into Saturday play without having to play Friday’s elimination game, one that was delayed when rain pushed the South Alabama-Georgia State matchup into the early evening. USA won 3-1; the game ended just before 9 p.m.
The Cajuns (39-8) now face the Jaguars again in Saturday’s 1 p.m. title game.
“It’s great to win regardless of the weather, to see them take control and take charge,” UL-Lafayette associate head coach T.J. Hubbard said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in that next game (Friday night), but it would have been tough to fight through some weather delays. Now we can go get off our feet and rest up.”
UL-Lafayette’s home run numbers are approaching record-book status.
The Cajuns upped their season total to a school-record 106 with Friday’s five home runs against South Alabama. UL-Lafayette entered that game one shy of the record 102 set in 2006.
The 106 home runs is already the 10th-most in Division I history — with the Sun Belt finals and NCAA postseason play still to come. The Cajuns’ 2.25 home runs per game, which lead the nation by a wide margin, rank second on the NCAA all-time list, behind only the 2.39 mark by Hawaii in 2010.
More than team records are being threatened. Junior catcher Lexie Elkins, the nation’s leader in home runs (29) and homers per game (0.62), is one away from the school record 30 hit by Danyele Gomez in 2006. One more homer would make Elkins one of eight players in Division I history with 30 or more homers in a season (Laura Espinoza of Arizona and Lauren Chamberlain of Oklahoma did it twice), and only Espinoza hit more than 32 homers in a season. (She had 37 in 1995.)
If Elkins maintains her pace, she would set a Division I record, topping the 0.60 mark of Camilla Carrera of UTEP in 2012.
The Cajuns are locked into the NCAA tournament, which begins next weekend at 16 on-campus regional sites, and a win in Saturday’s title game would nearly assure UL-Lafayette a host position for the regional round. The Cajuns hosted regional and super regional rounds last year on the way to a sixth Women’s College World Series appearance.
UL-Lafayette entered the week 10th in the RPI. South Alabama, which hosted a regional last year, was 29th, and Georgia State was 43rd. Georgia State will be hoping for an at-large berth, as will USA if it loses to the Cajuns on Saturday.
South Alabama, which began its program in 2007, has made three NCAA tournament appearances; Georgia State has made two, although none since joining the Sun Belt. GSU won the Trans America Athletic Conference in 1994 and the Colonial in 2011.
Bids and pairings for the NCAA field will be announced at 9 p.m. Sunday (ESPNU).