Opening day is about first impressions.
Or at least a few good reminders from the season before.
In Friday’s 3-2 victory over Ball State at Lamson Park in the 34th Annual Louisiana Classics, the No. 8-ranked UL Ragin’ Cajuns gave fans quite a few entries in both categories.
The first observation is it was the first game of the season.
After an offseason of over-the-top anticipation, coach Gerry Glasco’s team weren't yet in midseason form, but again it was the first game.
Most UL fans likely predicted a blowout win over the visiting Cardinals from Indiana.
It didn’t play out that way.
What the Cajuns did display was the ability to scratch across runs without the benefit of banging balls off or over the wall.
Newcomer Kaitlyn Alderink got the team’s first hit of the season with a one-out single in the second and scored on Julie Rawls’ line double to right.
Before the hometown faithful could enjoy the first lead of the season, though, senior ace right-hander Summer Ellyson found herself facing the bases loaded with no outs.
A line drive off the bat of Ball State's Haley Dominique that wasn’t snagged tied the game at 1-1, but Ellyson struck out three in the inning to avoid any further damage. Ellyson wasn't in 20-strikeout form, but the All-American did strike out 10 in six-plus innings in capturing her first victory of the season after leading the nation in wins a year ago.
The fact Ellyson didn't throw a complete game was the first indication of how seriously Glasco will take every game in this pressure-packed season. Ellyson gave up a bloop single to start the seventh and he immediately went to senior transfer Megan Kleist to nail down the save.
The fans didn't appreciate the strike zone to Kleist's first batter and then Stacy Payton lined an RBI single to right to cut UL's lead to 3-2. Dominique's ground to third should have resulted in the second out, but the runner was ruled safe to load the bases with one out.
But Kleist got a pop out and a strikeout to secure the too-close-for-comfort win.
Meanwhile, Alderink really hammered home how critical it was that she joined the fold during the fall in the top of the fourth. Theoretically, Alderink should be the one Cajun off to a slow start after sitting out last season. Instead, the former Texas A&M standout followed her hit in the second with an RBI single in the fourth to spark a two-run frame.
Junior designated player Bailey Curry made good on her second chance at a good first impression with a lead-off double to rightcenter to spark the two-run fourth.
Sarah Hudek likely wasn't thrilled with her first impression as the lead-off hitter, but she did show off her speed in the third when she literally turned a pop fly to shallow left into a triple.
Also up for a first impression was true freshman rightfielder Taylor Roman. She's as big and athletic as advertised. She settled for a walk in two official at-bats, while continuing to work on her new position in rightfield.
The other newcomer introduced to the fans was junior transfer third baseman Melissa Mayeux. She didn't get a hit and was flawless in her only chance at third base.
In all, the Cajuns settled for six hits, while Ball State managed seven hits in the loss.
If nothing else, it was the first win of the season.