On Sunday afternoon in Oxford, Miss., all the hopes and dreams of the UL Ragin’ Cajuns softball team were dashed.
The offense’s late-season slump was snapped when absolutely necessary.
But after overcoming a 3-0 deficit to grab a 4-3 lead in the sixth over top-seeded Ole Miss.
But the Rebels responded with a two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh in the second game to advance to the super regionals with a dramatic 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Cajuns.
Kaylee Horton’s infield single with the bases loaded and one out ended it. In the first game Sunday, Ole Miss ended UL’s 29-game winning streak with a 5-1 win.
On Saturday, UL had improved to 52-4 with a 2-0 win over Ole Miss to reach the program’s 12th straight regional final.
But that win required a superb performance by Summer Ellyson. Both runs came via a Rebels’ throwing error.
Sunday’s first run came on an error as well.
The Cajuns entered Sunday’s play hitting .198 as a team in postseason play, beginning with the Sun Belt tourney, and it didn’t get much better.
Sunday’s two losses ended UL’s season at 52-6 and is the third straight regionals loss for the program after making five straight super regionals, including a World Series season in 2014.
With the season slipping away, down 3-0 with two outs in the fifth, Raina O’Neal gave the Cajuns new life with a three-run homer off Game 2 southpaw reliever Molly Jacobsen to tie it at 3-3.
The Cajuns then got three hits off Jacobsen in the sixth and got a run off a wild pitch for a 4-3 lead they carried to the seventh.
The Rebels certainly carried over the momentum from the first game Sunday with two runs in the first.
Ellyson hurt her cause by hitting the lead-off batter and then a bunt single made it threat. Gabby Alvarez’s single off Ellyson got one run home and Jessica Puk’s clutch RBI single to left made it 2-0.
It looked like Julie Rawls had tied it with a two-run homer to right off Ole Miss right-handed starter Brittany Finney, but stellar centerfielder Kylan Becker reached over the fence to rob her of the homer.
Game 1 started out as expected. A pitchers' duel was expected and it was scoreless after two.
Then something unexpected took place when Ole Miss' No. 9 hitter Mikayla Allee hit a one-out homer to left to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead.
The unusual part wasn’t that Ellyson gave one up. She doesn’t give up many hits but has yielded 14 homers this year. The surprising part was Allee entered hitting .205 with one homer on the season.
At the time, it might have seemed like a relatively harmless solo homer, but things would hit rock bottom quickly.
A ground ball on the next batter was thrown wildly to allow Kylan Becker to score on the play for a 2-0 lead.
Even before Cajun fans could absorb the shock of the last two batters, they looked to the field and no longer saw ace pitcher Ellyson in the circle.
Down 2-0 and Ole Miss ace Molly Jacobsen showing early signs of dominance again, Glasco elected to preserve his All-American pitcher as much as he could for the if- necessary game.
Carrie Boswell struggled with illegal pitch calls and gave up two runs, so she was quickly pulled for Alison Deville.
The senior southpaw kept UL within reach, allowing one run and three hits in two innings, before giving way to freshman Kendra Lamb.
Lamb threw 2.2 scoreless innings, walking one and allowing two hits with two strikeouts.
But by the time the disastrous third inning was over, however, Abbey Latham added a homer and Kaylee Horton a two-run triple for a commanding 5-0 lead.
Perhaps with the pressure off, UL’s lineup actually mounted a few threats against Jacobsen.
In the third, Kourtney Gremillion and Casidy Chaumont singled with one out and scored on a fielding error. That put runners on the corners with one out, but Jacobsen got a force out and a groundout to prevent any further damage.
The Cajuns got a walk and a hit after two outs in the fourth, but that duo was stranded.
In the sixth, they loaded the bases with singles from Raina O’Neal and Lexie Comeaux and a walk to Alissa Dalton, but Gremillion’s line drive was speared by shortstop Allee to end the threat. Keeli Milligan singled with one out in the seventh, but a force out and a fly out ended to send it to the if-necessary game.
Jacobsen (14-7) allowed one unearned run on six hits, two walks and eight strikeouts.
Naturally, the loss also ended UL’s school-record 29-game winning streak.