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New season, but some things never change with UL being carried to 1-0 win by ace right-hander Summer Ellyson.

From Staff Reports

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – It took a while for the hitting lineup to get untracked, but UL’s ninth-ranked softball team used a late offensive surge to claim its often-delayed season opener Saturday afternoon.

The second victory of the day? Well, that came courtesy of a very familiar face.

The Ragin’ Cajuns scored six runs in the final two innings in an 8-2 win over Jacksonville State in their opening game in the UAB Green and Gold Classic Saturday afternoon. Then, in the tournament nightcap late Saturday, senior All-American Summer Ellyson threw a two-hitter and her teammates pushed across a single run in the third inning in taking a 1-0 win over host UAB.

The Cajuns, beginning a stretch that will see UL (2-0) play 12 games in a nine-day stretch, had their own Louisiana Classics tournament weathered out last weekend and had a Tuesday doubleheader at Lamar postponed until April due to frigid conditions and travel issues. Weather also wiped out Friday’s opening day of the UAB-hosted tournament.

“I was thinking about that last night,” said Cajun coach Gerry Glasco. “We’ve had 40 regular-season games cancelled since the last time we played, the last 32 last year and eight so far this year. Forty games is a long wait, so it felt absolutely great to play against anybody.”

UL, which had its 2020 season wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic after an 18-6 start, only got two hits in the nightcap win over the Blazers (3-3). But both came in the second inning when Taylor Roman led off with a single and Alissa Dalton drew a two-out walk before Ciara Bryan’s single up the middle plated Roman with the only run allowed by UAB starter Amy Woodham (0-2).

Ellyson (1-0) did the rest, stranding runners at third base in the first and sixth innings. The returning Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year walked one and struck out seven in her first appearance since last March’s shutdown.

The Cajuns scratched across single runs in the first two innings of Saturday’s opener in support of sophomore starter Kandra Lamb (1-0), making her first start in two seasons. The Australian native gave up only two hits – neither of which went more than 30 feet – while fanning three and walking three in 4 2/3 innings.

“She’s got tremendous potential,” Glasco said of Lamb. “She worked really hard last year as a redshirt, and she’s really improved especially with her velocity. She really had only one pitch working today, her rise ball, but she’s a three-pitch pitcher and when she starts to throw all three of those effectively, and she will, she’ll be a really special pitcher.”

UL used three pitchers to record the final seven outs, including Ellyson who came on to record a strikeout and end a Gamecock threat in the sixth inning.

That was before the Cajuns blew it open with a four-run seventh, including Roman’s two-run homer and a two-run single by senior returning All-American Dalton, who went 3-for-4 with three RBI.

Dalton scored an unearned run after a game-opening single in the first, and her sacrifice fly one inning later plated Bailey Curry for a 2-0 lead off Jacksonville State starter Reagan Watkins (0-1).

The Gamecocks (0-3) used two walks and two infield singles to cut the margin to 2-1 in the fourth, but UL made it 4-1 in the sixth on a double steal and Bryan’s RBI single before the seventh-inning eruption.

“The one thing I’m disappointed in is we had chances in the first and second innings,” said Glasco, whose team had 13 hits but left 10 runners stranded. Even though we scored, we need to do better in those situations. We had an opportunity to maybe put the game away in those first two innings and we didn’t do that.”

The Cajuns will play two more games in the four-team tournament Sunday, against Southeastern La. at 10 a.m. and UAB again at 3 p.m.