NORMAN, Okla. — The Louisiana-Lafayette softball team tried to make a late night even later.
The 14th-seeded Ragin’ Cajuns’ last-inning rally, highlighted by a two-out, three-run home run by Kelsey Vincent, came up one run short.
They got the winning run to the plate against Oklahoma’s Paige Parker but couldn’t finish it off in a 7-6 Oklahoma victory Friday night in an NCAA softball tournament super regional matchup.
“I love my kids. They’re fighters,” Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said. “We had a great season. I’m proud of these kids. They never roll over or accept mediocrity.”
The start of the game was delayed 2 hours, 25 minutes by a heavy thunderstorm at Oklahoma’s Marita Hynes Field. A Cajuns victory would have forced a decisive third game, which wouldn’t have begun before 11 p.m.
D.J. Sanders’ soft pop-out to second base ended UL-Lafayette’s season against third-seeded Oklahoma, which swept the best-of-three series to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
The Sooners seemed to take control in the second inning, scoring three runs on a pair of RBI singles and a run-scoring error, all with two outs.
The Cajuns finally jump-started the offense in the third with a one-out walk by Haley Hayden, then back-to-back singles by Shellie Landry and Lexie Elkins. Vincent drove in Hayden with an infield single deep into the hole between shortstop and third base. Then a fly-out to right by Aleah Craighton scored courtesy runner Kassidy Zeringue to cut Oklahoma’s lead to 3-2.
It took one swing to tie the score at 3 in the fourth inning when Sara Corbello ripped her 13th home run of the season well over the center-field wall.
Oklahoma had a long-ball answer in the top of the fifth when Sydney Romero’s line drive down the line hit the foul pole for a 4-3 lead.
The Sooners added some cushion in the top of the sixth on Shay Knighten’s two-out single up the middle. Lea Wodach’s RBI triple in the seventh provided the Sooners’ final run, which turned out to be crucial.
“As a team, we knew they were going to put the ball in play; they were going to put the ball in play every single pitch,” Vincent said. “The whole infield and outfield, every single pitch, we were expecting the ball. I think we all left it on the field today. It’s upsetting, but I don’t have any regrets at this point.”
Oklahoma had double-digit hits off Alex Stewart in both games, and it was too much for the Cajuns to overcome.
UL-Lafayette’s offense was solid against Oklahoma’s Parker, who came into the series with an ERA below 1.40. She only struck out two batters Friday.
After reaching their seventh consecutive super regional, the Cajuns concluded the season at 46-9.
“We’re sad today, and it stings,” Lotief said. “But this is a life-changing event, and as they go forward into their lives, they’re going to find a way to compete the way they did today. They’ll always go back to softball, and they’ll always go back to the life lessons and the things they learned through this game.”