LAFAYETTE — There wasn’t much aesthetically pleasing about his team’s 7-4 victory over Texas Southern on Friday night, but Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief didn’t really care.
“What really matters at this point in the season is surviving and advancing,” he said. “No matter how you do it, you just find a way.”
The Cajuns did just that as the victory at Lamson Park allowed top-seeded UL-Lafayette to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament at noon Saturday against No. 2 seed Texas.
Texas defeated Mississippi State 1-0 in Friday’s opener.
The tournament bracket has third-seeded Mississippi State and No. 4 seed TSU meeting in a 3 p.m. elimination game Saturday. A 6 p.m. game between the winner of the 3 p.m. contest and the loser of the noon game will follow.
The championship round is scheduled for noon Sunday, with those teams playing a second game if necessary.
The Cajuns (45-8-1) appeared ready to take control after establishing a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning.
Lotief said he probably destroyed his team’s momentum in the fourth by pulling starter Christina Hamilton and replacing her with Jordan Wallace.
Wallace, who has fought control problems all season, walked three batters in the third of an inning that she pitched, forcing Lotief to re-enter Hamilton for the rest of the game.
Hamilton, who threw 6.2 innings, allowed five hits while striking out four and walking three.
“I thought we were able to overcome some coaching moves that make you want to scratch your head,” Lotief said. “I put Wallace in a bad situation and our team in a bad situation.”
The Cajuns, who entered the tournament with 79 home runs, hit two more against TSU (31-19) to help drive the victory, the 37th in the past 40 games for UL-Lafayette.
Right fielder Shellie Landry put the Cajuns ahead 1-0 with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the second, and left fielder Shelbi Redfearn blasted a three-run homer during the next UL-Lafayette at-bat.
TSU softball coach Worley Barker said the Cajuns hit the ball as well as he expected.
“I thought we fought well and got behind early,” Barker said. “We left a few over the plate, and (UL-Lafayette) took advantage. We knew we’d have our hands full with their hitters. What excited me about our effort was the way our kids competed. I thought we went out there and really went after them.”
Lotief said he anticipated a difficult game from TSU.
“Everybody looks at the No. 4 seed and they think it’s going to be a cake walk. I knew (TSU) would be prepared,” Lotief said.
The Tigers scored all four runs during the first five innings off five walks, a hit batter and four singles.
Hamilton retired TSU in order in the sixth and seventh.
TSU started Madison Staton was replaced in the third by Sammantha Jimenez, who finished the game. Jimenez walked four and struck out two but allowed only one run, when the Cajuns scored in the fifth. Landry led off with a single and scored on the second hit by Corin Voinche.
“I came in and pitched as if there was nothing to lose. I thought my best pitches were my screwball and my curve. I just wanted to let (UL-Lafayette) put it in play and make the defense do the work,” Jimenez said.
Lotief said Hamilton will probably have to carry the pitching load, at least through the rest of the regional.
“Right now Christina is the kid who has the command. What you saw today is what’s going to happen,” he said. “(Against Texas) our hitters are going to go up there and take their hacks and we’ll see what happens.”
Texas defeated the Cajuns twice at Lamson Park earlier this season.
Texas 1, Mississippi State 0: Freshman lefthander Tiarra Davis threw a four-hitter as the Longhorns took a narrow victory.
Davis used an effective changeup that helped her strike out seven Bulldogs, while Texas center fielder Brejae Washington fell behind 0-2 in the pitch count and then hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning to score the game’s only run.
The win elevated Texas to 34-21, while Mississippi State fell to 38-20.
Mississippi State never got a runner past second base. Two of the Bulldogs’ hits were leadoff doubles, but the Bulldogs never could advance those runners any further.