LAFAYETTE — In the bullpen before the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader at Lamson Park, UL-Lafayette pitcher Jordan Wallace told coach Michael Lotief it would be her night.
“I felt a lot more comfortable than I have been lately,” Wallace said. “I just wanted to trust myself and the process and trust that the girls will have my back.”
Wallace gave up a solo home run to Sam Houston State’s Tori Koerselman in the fourth inning, but as Wallace said, her team had her back. Kelsey Vincent crushed a two-run homer in the Cajuns half of the fourth to take a one-run lead, and Wallace went on to pitch a complete game, giving up two hits and striking out nine as the Cajuns completed the two-game sweep of Sam Houston with a 4-2 win.
“If you know Jordan, you know that the struggle was eating her up,” Lotief said. “The fact that she stayed at it and she kept working, in her mind, there was only one option. That was to fix it.”
Wallace, who has struggled recently as she recovered from a lower back injury, said she has been building her confidence over the last two weeks. She said her struggles have been some mental, but mostly physical.
“It messed with my mechanics,” she said. “We’ve been working on getting back to 100-percent mechanics-wise, and I keep progressively feeling more comfortable.”
Lotief agreed, saying he has seen the progress in Wallace and he thinks her repertoire is finally coming together.
“To go through (the struggles) in front of everybody is tough to do,” Lotief said. “I thought that she finally felt good over the last week. I think she really felt good (before the game), but you still have to go out there and perform, and I thought she did an excellent job. She is going to continue to progress as the season goes on.
UL-Lafayette’s Natalie Fernandez went 6-for-6 in the two games against the Bearkats to raise her season average to .506. Lotief said he doesn’t pay attention to statistics, but he sees Fernandez’s energy rubbing off on her teammates.
“That kid is continuing to be our spark plug,” Lotief said. “What I see from my vantage point, I see a kid that is locked in. I see a kid that is providing leadership for the rest of the team. You can see her energy; you can see her pace. She is into it. To me, that is more representative than any number I can see.”
In the first game, UL-Lafayette’s Christina Hamilton struck out five in a 6-0 complete game victory. Lotief said he was pleased with Hamilton’s recent hot streak.
“Among the things we wanted to do was to make sure Christina kept her rhythm,” Lotief said. “That was good to see.”
Lotief said heading into conference play with these two wins is a plus, but he said he knows the Cajuns still have things to work on. He credited his team with always making the necessary adjustments.
“They’re all fighters,” he said.
“We play the game in an imperfect way, but the thing that impresses me is that they keep fighting. Their mental make up is to keep fighting. Sometimes that is more important than hitting. Those kids are competitors in my judgment. For a female athlete, when they have that competitive fire — that is good stuff.”