The No. 14-ranked UL Ragin’ Cajuns softball team not only won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship, but did so with an exclamation point.
The Cajuns pounded four homers in cruising to a 15-3 run-rule win over South Alabama in five innings in the finals Saturday in Troy, Alabama.
“I think there was just a lot of emotion coming out of the girls right there … relief,” UL coach Gerry Glasco said of the four homers. “They knew they had the game in control and I think they were just having fun, relaxing and just getting in their hacks. The talent’s always been there. Seeing them put it all together like that was really fun.”
The Cajuns improved to 44-10 overall in securing the Sun Belt’s automatic berth into NCAA regional play for the 16th time.
It’ll be the program’s 22nd consecutive regional berth and 29th in the last 30 seasons.
“I was real proud of the girls,” Glasco said. “I thought they played really good throughout the tournament. I’m most proud because of the way they learned to respond to each other and letting each other have a part of each game with different lineups. It doesn’t matter where you bat in the order. It doesn’t matter who is in – just do you job.”
Seeing the finish line, the Cajuns wasted no time letting South Alabama know what it was in for in this championship game with five runs in the first inning.
Ciara Bryan and Kaitlyn Alderink set the table with a pair of singles and a stolen base. Kendall Talley made it work with a two-run single, but the Cajuns weren’t only getting started.
Julie Rawls walked and Alissa Dalton was hit by a pitch before Jade Gortarez’s three-run double.
“We have the first three in the lineup just trying to set the table for us,” Gortarez said of the three-run double. “You just kind of know at that point that somebody’s going to get the job done – whether it’s Julie (Rawls) or Juice (Justice Milz) or myself. Juice ended up popping up off that foul ball and she just said, ‘Come on, come on, pick me up, pick me up.’ That’s been a big part of our game.”
Gortarez added another double in the game.
“We wanted to come out and make a statement for us, especially being the Sun Belt Conference championship and going into regionals next week,” Gortarez said. “It was exactly what we wanted to do. I don’t think we could ask any more from anyone.”
In the third, UL brought out the power bats. Dalton started it with a two-run home run, but then Sophie Piskos crushed another two-run homer to leftcenter for a 9-1 lead.
“Good,” Dalton said of the homer. “Long over due. I was glad I could still do it.”
The longest one of all was then delivered by Bailey Curry into the trees in left with a third two-run bomb of the inning.
In the fourth, Melissa Mayeux added a three-run homer to really make it a total runaway win.
“We’ve had a rough season,” Dalton said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries and a lot of people moving ward. This weekend especially, we’ve kind of seen our team bond more and be able to back each other up in a way that I haven’t seen us do before.”
Summer Ellyson improved to 23-6 after allowing two earned runs on five hits with one out and five strikeouts in four innings.
Kandra Lamb pitched the fifth to close out the win.
“It’s just fun coming to a team that’s filled with seniors with so much talent,” Gortarez said. “Everyone just getting the job done and wanting to contribute every since at-bat.
“Overall, I think it ended pretty well for us – kind of just taking advantage of everyone’s opportunities.”