UL junior ace pitcher Summer Ellyson may have been pitching on the road in the Mississippi heat Saturday afternoon, but the All-American candidate looked more like she was in a rocking chair on her front porch in South Louisiana.
OXFORD, Miss. There were several sloppy base-running mistakes.
The right-hander tossed a three-hit shutout at the top-seeded Ole Miss Rebels to power the No. 7-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns to a 2-0 winners' bracket Oxford regional win at the Ole Miss Softball Complex.
The shutout was Ellyson’s first in NCAA play, improved her record to 39-4 on the season and earned UL a program-best 29th straight victory. More importantly, it pushed the Cajuns (52-4) into Sunday’s 2 p.m. finals. A team would now have to defeat UL twice Sunday to advance to the super regional.
“The fans were great today on both sides,” Ellyson said. “I thought Ole Miss fans whenever they wanted to get a rally started, the fans were incredible on both sides. It reminded me a lot of home and that’s where I feel at my best.”
Despite giving up a bloop single to Kylan Becker in the first, Ellyson only faced one over the minimum through four. She later easily blew off a lead-off walk in the fifth and a lead-off single in the sixth to keep the Rebels from reaching third base all day.
From day one, it was never a secret why UL softball coach Gerry Glasco brought senior outfielder Keeli Milligan to the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“To come out here and trust my defense, I just knew we were going to perform at a high level,” Ellyson said. “Everything worked out for the better.
“Today was good. I knew my defense had my back. I was just trying to get them to make plays.”
In hindsight, the best chance to score against Ellyson for the Rebels (38-18) came in the sixth. Gabby Alvarez started it off with a pinch-hit single to right to bring up a .417 hitter in Becker, who was 2 for 2 at the time.
Becker elected to bunt. Julie Rawls threw her out at first.
“That was Kylan and you know what, I thought that was a great call,” Ole Miss coach Mike Smith said. “I thought they were playing back a little bit. I thought it surprised them. She had already gotten two hits. Kylan knows she had the green light. I wish I would have thought about it and called it. If it goes out a little bit further, she’s safe. I don’t second guess that decision she made at all.”
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And of course, Ellyson answered the challenge with a strikeout and ground out to preserve the shutout. She allowed three hits, one walk and struck out seven in the win.
“My mindset stays the same pretty much the whole game,” Ellyson said. “It’s just going at them and letting my defense play behind me. I’m not going in there trying to strike everybody out, although sometimes it does happen, but I’m just trying to put the ball in play, easy outs, and make ground balls.”
As good as Ellyson was, however, it required at least one run for the Cajuns to win. That scoring came in the top of the third.
With one out, Casidy Chaumont doubled to rightcenter to ignite the game-winning rally.
“It felt awesome,” Chaumont said. “Our team needed something to get is started, something to move us forward. I just looked for something in the strike zone to try to get a hit.
“She’s an off-speed pitcher, so I was looking for that. She came in off-speed, so the next time I was going to sit out, hard out and that’s what she gave me, so I hit it hard in the gap. He was waving me to third, but I guess I wasn’t really looking, so I went back to second.”
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Keeli Milligan then hit a grounder to deep short that was ruled a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with one out.
Then things got interesting. Raina O’Neal missed the bunt attempt and Ole Miss catcher Autumn Gillespie chased Chaumont back to third.
While running up the third base line, though, Gillespie spotted Milligan halfway to second base. She sailed the throw to second to chase both UL runners home for a 2-0 lead.
“At that moment, I was kind of thinking maybe I’d get in a rundown,” Milligan said. “As soon as I got off (the base) and I saw her up, she (Gillespie) was not even looking at third. She was looking right at me. So I knew that was a big moment with Casidy at third and all their attention focused on me.
“I knew that if I could keep them distracted long enough and I could stay off the base long enough, we might score a run right there. As soon as she threw it in the outfield and I saw the (jersey) numbers running to the ball, I was off.”
O’Neal quickly singled past the shortstop, but the Cajuns wouldn’t get another hit the rest of the way. In fact, the only baserunner after that was on a Rebel error.
The No. 7-ranked UL Ragin' Cajuns softball team will be headed to Oxford, Miss., for the NCAA regionals.
“At this stage of the year, you’ve got to have every facet of the game give you the opportunity to win,” Smith said. “We didn’t do that today.
“Tip your cap to them, they executed. They got people on base and we didn’t do our part playing defense. We’ve got to do a better job in all facets.”