TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The fifth-ranked UL-Lafayette softball team suffered its first defeat of the season Saturday but bounced back to split a doubleheader with fourth-ranked Alabama.
The Ragin’ Cajuns lost 5-1 in the first game of a doubleheader but won the second game 2-1 in front of nearly 3,000 fans at Rhoads Stadium.
UL-Lafayette (15-1) and Alabama (14-4) will settle the series at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s two good teams going at each other, whichever team gets the momentum, whichever team gets the breaks, whichever team the softball gods smile on,” UL-Lafayette coach Michael Lotief said. “It’s just good softball.”
UL-Lafayette leadoff hitter Haley Hayden came into the contest with seven home runs — the same number as Alabama’s entire team — but Cajuns never broke through against Crimson Tide starter Sydney Littlejohn, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.
The Cajuns had hit 28 home runs in 14 games going into the weekend but weren’t able to get their power game going against Alabama’s sophomore finesse pitcher. Littlejohn (6-0) struck out five batters and allowed three walks in a three-hit performance.
“I think their kid pitched an incredible game,” Lotief said.
Alabama used its speed to post an early lead before adding power on. All-American outfielder Haylie McCleney slapped an infield single to lead off the bottom of the first inning and came home on Danielle Richards’ line-drive double down the third-base line.
Alabama increased its lead to 2-0 in the third. McCleney and Demi Turner hit back-to-back singles, and McCleney rounded third and came home on an errant throw from right field.
Alabama doubled its lead to 4-0 on Marissa Runyon’s two-run homer to left-center.
UL-Lafayette finally broke up Littlejohn’s no-hitter in the sixth on Hayden’s leadoff single. She scored when third baseman Samantha Walsh bashed a double off the wall in left field.
Alabama answered with a solo homer by Danae Hays to lead off the bottom of the sixth.
All-American Christina Hamilton (3-1) took the loss, allowing six hits and two walks in five innings with a pair of strikeouts.
In the second game, Alabama took the lead in the bottom of the third inning. First baseman Leona Lafaele hit a triple to right field and scored on Chandler Dare’s sacrifice fly.
UL-Lafayette tied it at 1 when Walsh led off the top of the fourth with a solo home run to left field.
The Cajuns scored the difference-maker in the fifth. Hayden singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Walsh’s RBI single.
Jordan Wallace (6-0) kept Alabama in check, allowing five hits and three walks with six strikeouts. Alabama had runners on second and third to end both the sixth and seventh innings.
“I thought our kid showed some guts,” Lotief said.
Freshman Alexis Osorio (5-2) struck out a dozen batters in a hard-luck loss. She yielded four hits with six walks.
Walsh went 3-for-7 with three RBIs and one run scored.
“She saved us,” Lotief said.