NORMAN, Okla. — The home runs were there, as usual, for Louisiana-Lafayette.
Yet a pair of solo homers weren’t enough for the 14th-seeded Ragin’ Cajuns to overcome No. 3 Oklahoma in the first game of the NCAA super regional Thursday night at Marita Hynes Field.
The Sooners pounded out 14 hits in an 8-2 win for a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Despite striking first, the Cajuns ultimately had no answer for all of Oklahoma’s weapons.
On the game’s second pitch, Haley Hayden lined a pitch from Oklahoma ace Paige Parker over the left-field fence for a 1-0 Cajuns lead. The home run was Hayden’s eighth of the year atop the Cajuns’ power-packed lineup.
Oklahoma responded in the bottom of the first inning with a small-ball approach. The Sooners led off with two bunts, one for a hit and another that induced a throwing error before freshman Shay Knighten hit a soft line drive to right-center field to load the bases.
That was the only ball that left the infield in the inning, but Oklahoma scored three runs. Two came on ground balls to the left side of the infield, and another on a perfectly placed squeeze bunt by Lea Wodach that trickled along the third base line but stayed in fair territory.
“We knew they were going to put the ball in play and make us make plays,” third baseman Kara Gremillion said. “We weren’t surprised by anything they did.”
Oklahoma stretched the lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the second, and looked like it might add another in the third. But UL-Lafayette’s left fielder Shellie Landry made an on-point throw on a sacrifice fly.
Catcher Lexie Elkins caught the ball as Oklahoma’s Kady Self slid past home plate without touching it, and Elkins tagged her out as Self attempted to dive back to the plate.
Elkins had seemed to be zeroing in on Parker’s pitches all night, starting with an 11-pitch at-bat in the first inning, and then two long foul balls her next time up.
In the top of the sixth inning, Elkins ripped a hard line drive over the left-field fence for her 19th home run of the season.
Yet that would be the Cajuns’ last real threat.
The second game of the best-of-three series will be at 6 p.m. Friday, with the decisive third game set for 9 p.m., should it be necessary.
The first step in trying to overcome the Sooners will be getting a better bead on Parker (32-3), who allowed just six hits with one walk with seven strikeouts.
“We just have to stay true to our plan,” Hayden said. “We have to go up there and attack the pitches that we want. Trust our plan, trust our coaches and execute.”
Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said his team needs to play better defense behind pitcher Alex Stewart (29-5) as well.
“Now we can get some rest and start thinking about what adjustments we need to make,” Lotief said. “It’s going take everybody, every pitch for 14 innings tomorrow.
“You hear the kids talk about how this setting is something they’ve dreamed about since they were 12 years old, so take advantage of it. They’ll come out here tomorrow and have some fun and compete. Let’s see what happens.”