LAFAYETTE — Aleah Craighton admitted her final at-bat Sunday in Louisiana-Lafayette’s game against UL-Monroe had a little added motivation.
Craighton had been hit by a pitch twice already Saturday, which marked her eighth hit by pitch in the last four conference series. She came up in the sixth inning with a runner on second and belted a long single to the wall, ending the 8-0 game on the mercy rule.
“I just want to win every pitch, and if I get hit, I get hit,” Craighton said. “Whatever it takes for my team — if I need to get on base by getting hit, I’ll get hit.
“I wanted to end it there. A hit is a hit whether it’s a single or a double or a home run. I was just like, ‘Let’s go home.’ ”
Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said Craighton’s toughness is hard to match.
“Not too many females do stuff like that,” Lotief said. “She gets hit and just puts her head down and goes to first. She doesn’t need ice, she just goes down there and next time up, she’ll turn on a pitch. She is tough as nails.”
Craighton’s hit was the final one, but the Cajuns got the offense rolling with eight runs on 10 hits. Haley Hayden was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs, and Shellie Landry capped off her final regular-season series at Lamson Park by going 2-for-4 with a triple and her 14th home run of the season.
“What a storybook career for that kid,” Lotief said of Landry. “There’s no need for me to try and describe it. It’s been a fun ride for her and her family. The Cajun people take pride that it’s one of their own. There’s some sweetness to that. It’s icing on the cake.”
Lotief said it was good to see the lineup turnover and get everyone going as the Cajuns head into the Sun Belt Conference tournament next weekend in Mobile, Alabama. Even Brittany Nollkamper, who’s struggled at times since replacing Lexie Elkins behind the plate, went 1-for-2 Sunday.
Lotief said Nollkamper is beginning to trust her swing better and is being rewarded for her efforts.
“Her swing is better, and her mechanics are better,” Lotief said. “There was no way she was ready when Lexie went down. She stayed out of her own head and kept playing. She has more confidence now and she is seeing the ball better.
“That is the development of that kid over the next three years. There is a long-term picture with her, and I think she has done a great job stepping in. She has been consistent, no major mistakes back there, and the pitching staff never dropped off. Her job has been sometimes overlooked.”
Craighton said the Cajuns’ goal Sunday was to get their swagger back and compete like they’re used to.
Lotief said when they play like they did Sunday, everything is more fun.
“We got a bunch of them going today, and we saw them play with a purpose,” Lotief said. “You have to have fun and have energy and play with passion. When this team plays like that and we start turning that lineup over, it becomes a different game, and that is what we want to get into.”