Ragin Cajuns put heat on LSU in 1-0 win to advance to super regionals
BATON ROUGE, La. -– Jordan Wallace pitched out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the seventh to record a four-hit shutout and give Louisiana an NCAA regional championship victory against LSU with a 1-0 win on Sunday afternoon in front of a capacity crowd at Tiger Park.
"I’ve been saying this all season, I’m so proud of these girls, " Head coach Michael Lotief said. "They’ve worked so hard. They care about to each other. They believe in their dreams, and they’ve overcome tremendous obstacles. When you get into some of these dogfights, a lot of it is luck. The game rewarded us, and we understand that. LSU is a worthy opponent, and that was a well-played college softball game."
The victory sends Louisiana to play No. 8 Michigan in an NCAA super regional in Ann Arbor, Mich.
This will be the second consecutive year that Louisiana will make a Super Regional appearance, a feat that they have never achieved.
Wallace, who improved to 31-7 on the year, threw her third consecutive shutout in the LSU Regional, walking four and striking out four with a pair of hit batters. In three tourney games, she threw 21 scoreless innings, allowing just seven hits with 25 strikeouts.
“What she did [Sunday] was phenomenal," Lotief said of Wallace. "She went through her share of struggles early in the season. The crowd was trying to intimidate her, the hitters made adjustments. As the game wore on, you could see she lost some velocity. I saw a lot of heart, will and fight. She is a warrior and a winner.”
The Cajuns scored the only run of the game in the first when Nerissa Myers led off with a line drive double off the top of the fence in left center. She went to third on a fly ball to right field by Brianna Cherry and scored when Sarah Draheim hit a ground ball to short that went through the legs of Bell to make it a 1-0 game.
“It’s always a difference maker with a run on the board," Myers said in the post-game press conference. "It helps Jordan [Wallace], but it also gives her a little cushion. Of course, we would have loved to score more than one run. With that run though, we know she can still go confidently in there and play here game. The ultimate goal is to make her feel as comfortable as possible.”
It was the team-leading 65th RBI of the season for Draheim and the 242nd run scored by Myers in her career, good for 20th place on the NCAA career chart. Myers was responsible for five of Louisiana’s seven runs in the tourney, scoring four herself with a pinch-runner plating the fifth.
The run also marked the third consecutive game that the Ragin’ Cajuns scored in the first inning, grabbing leads that Wallace would not relinquish.
But unlike the 3-0 win against Northwestern State on Friday or the 3-0 win against LSU on Saturday, Wallace had some extra work to do.
Wallace retired the Tigers in order just once in the contest, that coming in the third, while LSU left 10 runners on base and six in scoring position.
The Tigers had a pair of baserunners in the first when Wallace walked Bianca Bell with two outs and Allison Falcon was hit by a pitch. Wallace got out of the inning by getting Sandra Simmons to pop out to second.
LSU also had runners on first and second with one out in the second when Tammy Wray was safe on an infield single and Lauren Houston was hit by a pitch. Wallace again bore down, striking out Simone Heyward and getting A.J. Andrews to pop out to second to end the inning.
The Tigers left a runner on third in the fifth and it could have been much worse. Heyward led off with a walk and one batter later, Jacee Blades appeared to have beaten out an infield single, only to be called out for hitting the ball outside of the batter’s box.
With Bell batting with two outs, a wild pitch by Wallace and a little deception by Bell allowed Heyward to go all the way to third when Bell pretended to be hit by the wild pitch causing Draheim to take her time in retrieving the errant pitch. Wallace again overcame it, getting Bell to fly to short to end the inning.
A two-out bloop double by Kloss allowed the Tiger to threaten in the sixth, but Wallace induced Wray to pop out to short for the third out.
The seventh proved to be the biggest jam for the Cajuns as Heyward walked with one out and went to second on a single by Andrews. Blades was next, slapping a light bunt down the third base line that Natalie Fernandez could not make a play on to load the bases.
But as she had done time after time, Wallace bore down. She induced power-hitter Bell to hit a week pop-up to the mound for the second out and then struck out Falcon on a 1-2 pitch to end the game.
For the second consecutive day, LSU pitcher Rachele Fico (24-13) was the hard-luck loser, allowing the Cajuns just two hits and five base runners in losing for the second time in as many days to Louisiana. On Saturday, Fico allowed just two hits, both homeruns, in a 3-0 loss that sent the Cajuns to the regional title game.