LAFAYETTE — Haley Hayden kicked off the first game of the Ragin’ Cajuns Invitational by launching a leadoff home run over the left-centerfield wall, and it looked like Iowa would be the latest to be blown away by No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette.
But the Cajuns (10-0) would need to show a little mettle to get past Iowa (3-7), who did not wilt when the Cajuns plated runs in both the first and second innings. It would take some timely hitting and an excellent performance in relief from Christina Hamilton for the Cajuns to extend their perfect record in a 4-3 win.
The bottom of the Iowa order didn’t hit the ball hard, but found the right places against Cajuns starting pitcher Alex Stewart in the bottom of the second inning.
The Hawkeyes’ Nos. 6-through-9 hitters opened the second inning with three soft singles that found the gaps in the Cajuns defense, the last of which plated a run.
With runners on first and second, leadoff hitter Cheyenne Pratt battled Stewart for 10 pitches before finally tapping a ball back to the mound. But Stewart’s throw to third base sailed wide, allowing the tying run to score.
Coach Mike Lotief had seen enough, signaling for senior right-hander Christina Hamilton to come in from the bullpen.
Hamilton walked the first batter she faced to load the bases, then allowed a two-out single into left field. The go-ahead run scored, but Shellie Landry’s perfectly placed throw to the plate beat Iowa second baseman Claire Fritsch to end the Hawkeyes’ rally.
It didn’t take the Cajuns long to regain the lead. Samantha Walsh crushed a one-out solo home run in the top of the third to tie the game, and after a walk and a single put runners on the corners, Meagan Thomas plated the go-ahead run by grounding out to the shortstop.
One run was all Hamilton would need. The only trouble she found herself in over the final four frames came when she allowed a leadoff double in the fourth inning. Hamilton retired 15 of the final 17 batters she faced, with three strikeouts.
The fact that Hamilton was able to close the game despite still working up to full strength after recovering from an offseason shoulder injury made Lotief a happy coach.
“To see Christina come in and do what she did, being on the shelf as long as she had, it was very encouraging,” Lotief said.
UL-LAFAYETTE 3, HOFSTRA 0: The nightcap was nearly as tight, but the Cajuns (11-0) were once again able to rely on dominance from senior pitcher Jordan Wallace, who allowed only one hit while striking out 13 in the Cajuns 3-0 shutout of Hofstra (3-4).
Wallace (4-0) needed her dominant stuff, as Hofstra’s Taylor Pirone limited the Cajuns to just one run through the first five innings before the Cajuns tacked on a pair in the sixth.
That lone Cajuns run in the first five innings came on a solo home run off the bat of junior catcher Lexie Elkins, her fourth of the season.
Wallace has now allowed just five hits in 31 innings pitched this season, and has struck out 59 batters.
“Jordan was lights-out again, and her confidence continues to grow,” Lotief said. “That’s a good thing for her and a good thing for us.”